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PS 009 186 

flontessori^ ilario M. Jr. 

Education for Human Development: Onderstanding 




Schocken Books^. 200 Madison Avenue^ New York^ New 
York^ 10016 ($7.95) 

tiF-$0.83 HC-$7.35 Plus Postage, 
Child Development; *Early Childhood Education; 
♦Educational Philosophy; *Educational Theories; 
Putures (of Society); *Human Development; 
Observation ; Personality Development ; Psychology ; 
Social Values; student Motivation; Student Teacher 
Belationship; *?alues 

Montessori (Maria) ; *Montessori Method 

This book presents the philosphical^ psychological^ 
and educational ideas of Maria Montessori, Chapters d.eal with: (1) 
rhe contribution of Montessori's ideas to philosophy^ education^ 
science # and child development; (2) the relationship of the 
Montessori materials to a child's intellectual/ emotional and social 
development; (3) Montessori' s view of people in relation to modern 
psychology; (4) the psychological value of work in school; (5) th§ 
Montessori view of the process of education and learning; (6) 
education in a changing world; (7) Montessori philosophy as related 
to the rapidly changing values of society; and (8) the concept of 
cosmic education. An appendix contains observations of a Montessori 
classroom. (SB) 

ED 136 940 






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Understanding Montessori 


Edited by Paula Polk Lillcrd 






Schocken Books • New York 



OV.'NER ■ 

First published by schocken hooks 1976 
Copyright ^0 1976 by Schocken Books Inc. 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 

Montessori. Mario M 
'Education for huitian development. 

Inchides index. 

1. Montt^sori niettiod of education. I. Title. 
I.B77vM8M^7 372.1'^ 7';->7042 

Manufactured in the United States of America 


To My Children 

Mario, Carolina, Ada, Nicouna, and Rolando 




A n Apprecia tio ri of Wo n t esso ri 




1/ The Contrii)iition of Maria Montessori 1 

2/ The Montessori Materials: Their Function and 

Relatioiiship to the Child's Work, Play, and Social Life 17 

3/ Montessori Education and Modern Psychology 3-5 

4/ llic Psychological Value of Work in School 47 

5/ Moncessori and the Process of Education 59 

6/ Education in a Changing World 73 

7/ Montessori a :d the Revolution in Values 85 

8/ Cosmic Education 97 

Appendix: A Montessori Classroom 

PwiA Polk Lillard 107 

Index 1 17 



Buckminster Fuller 

All cliildren .arc l)orn geniuses. 9Q99 out of every 10,000 are swiftly, 
inadvertently, dcgeinused by grown-ups, 'I'll is happens becau^>e 
hmuau beings are born naked, helpless, and'— tliougl; superbly 
equipped cerebrally— utterly lacking in experience, therefore utterly 
ignorant. Tlieir delicate sensing equipment is, as yet, untried. Born 
with built-in hunger, thirst, curiosity, the proereadvc urge, they can 
only learn what humanity has learned by trial and error— by billions 
upon billions of errors. Yet hinnanity is also endowed with self- 
deceiving prkle. All those witnessing the errors of others proclaim 
that they (the witnesses) could have prevented those errors had 
they only ':>een consulted* "People should not make jnistakes*' they 
niistakenly s:ay. Motivated entirely by love, but ulso by fear for the 
futures off the children they love, parents, in their ignorance, act as 
though they know all tlie answers and curtail the spontaneous 
cxploratorv' acts of their children, lest the children make "mis- 
takes/' But genius does its own thinking; it has confidence in its 
own exploratory findings, in its own intuitions, in the knowledge 
gained from its own mistakes. Nature has her own gestation rates 
for evr>lutionary development. The actions of parents represent the 
checks and balances of nature's gestation control. Humanity ca«i 
evolve healthily only at a given rate. Maria Montessori was 
fortiuiately permitted to maintain, sustain, and cultivate her innate 
genius. Her genius invoked her awareness of the genius inherent in 



X An Appreciation of Montessori 

iiU children. Mer intuition and initiative inspired her to discover 
ways of safeguarding this genius while allaying the ignoran'i fears of 
parents. But the way was not always easy. Hers was the difficult 
fron tiering task of genius. 


SunseU Maine 
Aiigust i9, 197? 


Paula Polk Lillard 

Miin;j Montcssori heE^ini her pioneering work on behalf of chilJreii 
at the tnrn of tlie ecntury. 'Hie centennial of her birtli was 
celel)rate(l liot long ago. Mowcver, chiring tlic intervening years, 
there have l;een fewer commentaries adding new insiglits to lier 
work than one won Id expect.^ 'I'he following chapters helj) to fill 
this void in the Montessori hterature. 'They are based on lectures 
originally presented, for the most part, at Montessori meetings in 
\arions countries (hiring the 196()s and 197()s by Dr. Mario M. 
Montessori, Jr., a f)racticing jjsychoaiialyst in Anistcrdain, vice 
president of the International Psychoanalytic Association, and a 
grandson of Maria Montessori, These lectnres, given in English, were 
prepared in response to requests from Montessori teachers and 
paretits for information on various topics. They represent an 
endeavor on the author's j)art to highlight the originality of some of 
Moiitessori's viewj)oiiits and show their iinportanec for education 

Oiie fact is clear from the essays in this book: Montessori was 
ailliiJg for a revolution in society's approach to human develop- 
ment and education. Because of her revolutionary ideas. Mcr.- 
tessori's philosophy and methods historically have not been easily 
understood or accepted, by either her critics or her adinirers One 
area in which her revolutionary •ipproach is apparent is in her 
attitude to the child himself. 




Montcssori IkkI a clce|) reverence for creation. This rcvcrc-ijce 
ami her knowledge of tiie physical sciences eonibined in ;t focus on 
children and their role in the creation of adnlt human beings. 
Phillipc Arie.s points out in Centuries of Childhood' that the 
recognition of the child as ij unique entity is relatively recent in 
Western culture, Historically, very young children vrere regarded :is 
primitive beings to be pliysically cared for. biit whose importance, 
except in the continmun of human life, was given little thought. As 
early as the age of seven or eight they were regarded as mhiiature 
adults. I'xpected to reason, to accept responsibility, and often, to 
plan for their own sur\'ival. 

Gradually, with the advent of the industrial Revolution, a 
concern for the state of childhood began, Children played a more 
realistic rok- in the arts-in the novels of Charies Dickens and the 
paintings of the fnipressionists. Society's new awareness of children . 
may have been partly a result of the development of family life as 
we know it today, with parents, paiticularly mothers, able to spend 
more time in the home.'*''For the most part, however, this new 
awareness grew out of tlie psychological and cultural frainework of 
nineteenth-ceritury Europe and America. The traditional emphasis 
of the Chrisl'ian Church on man's evil nature and the necessity for 
the salvation of children through, baptisi \ had led to an approach 
to children that was often one of rigid control and nianipn.lation. 
However, at least one philosopher, Rousseau, had taken an 
opposite view— that children were innately good and needed only 
to be freed froui the contamination of civilization for their true 
nature to be exposed, 'f'his theory often contributed to a sentimen- 
tal and idealistic view of the child. To add to the confusion, 
Freud's work with adults had revealed the sexuality of the very 
young child. .Adults, made aware of their- own repressed emotions, 
became less sure of how children should he treated. 

The varied approaches to children current in the nineteenth 
century had one aspect in connnon. They were based, for the most 
part, on the experience of adults with other adults. They were not 
derived from direct observation of the behavior and development 
of children. Montcssori. however, reasoned that the way to a deeper 
understanding of men and women was through observation of 




The child sljould not he regarded as a feeble and helpless creature 
wliose only need is to he protected and helped, hut .i^ a spiritual 
enihryo. possessed of an active psychic life from the day that he is 
boni and guided by subtle instincts enabling him to actively build up 
the hiinian personality. And since it is the child who becomes the 
adult man, we must consider him as the true builder of mankind and 
recognize him as our father. The great secret of our origin lies hidden 
V -thin liim, and the laws that will lead man to his rightful state of 
being can be manifested only within him. In this sense the child is 
r)ur teacher;* 

Dr. Montessori's medical background led her logically to this 
conclusion. She noted that biologists had not realK' un^!er^^ood 
organisms from studying theiii in their fully developed state. Only 
after the invention of the microscope and tlie observation of cell 
division was a breakthrough in embryology, and hence in biology, 
made, by the same token, it was not until pbysical scientists could 
peer into the atomic *\vindow," the spectrum, that a breakthrough 
in the understanding of matter came. - 

Although trained in the seientifie approach. Montessori did not 
pursue her study of the child in the neces.sarily restricted eiiviron- 
ment of the laboratory. This fact has caused misunderstanding, 
even mistrust, of \'lontessori*s work. Jt may be well, therefore, to let 
her speak for herself in explaining wluit thoughts went through her 
nn'nd vviien she worked with children. 

When I am in the midst of children [ do not think of myself as a 
scientist, a theoretician. When I am with children 1 am a nobody, 
and the greatest privilege 1 have when 1 approach then* is being able 
to forget that 1 even exist, for this has enabled uie to see things that 
one would miss it one were sonjebody— litde things, simple but very 
precious truths. It is not always imperative to see big things, hut it is 
of paramount importance to sec the beginnings of things. At their 
origins there are little glinnners that ran be recognized as soon as 
something new is developing. . . . The cliiki is a spiritual embryo that 
develops spontaneously, and if we follow him from the beginning, he 
can reveal many things to us.-'* 

This thought introdticei a second revolutionary approach of 
Montessori; it is the humanity of children at which we must look in 




order to discover tlic secret of tlicir life. Wluit is specifically liiiiiKin 
about cliildreii. tlic spontaneous nature of these developing spsp 
itnal embryos, cannot be uncovered in the strict .sciei^tific at- 
mosphere of the laboratory. 

There are, of conrse. scientists who have studied the likenesses 
between men and animals in the laboratory: Darwin ;md W'ulhicc, 
and more recently, Loren/. and Skinner. Although what they teU' us 
can be nsefnl, we shonld not exagger;tite the help hehavioTtjl 
|)sychologists can give us. It is the uniqueness of man that wc must 
penetrate if we are to solve the problems of our existence. As 
Montessori points out, 

Nhni's soul is an enignij. It has remained an unkuovvn that inhabits 
an UAi known domain. Not even psyciiology has bc^-n able to 
enliglitcn us, to shed light on the mystery.^' 

Since the 196()s thei , has been a shift away fron^ t!ie emphasis 
on laboratory tcchuiques and animal research in ''he stiuiy of man. 
The discovery by biologists that we arc not what we thought we 
were, even physically,'^ and by physicists that all matter evolves, has 
ended the age-old dream that the universe and our observations of 
it can be reduced to precise mathematical formulas. As Brouowski 
notes in The Ascent of Man, 

wc had hoped tliat huuKni errors would disappear and t)u;t wc would 
ourselves have Cod's view. But it turns out that the errors i-annot be 
taken out of the ol)Scr*:itions. And that is true of sturs, or atoms, or 
just looking a' soniebody's picture, or liearing tlie report of 
sonieb{)dy*s speech.** 

This newhuiuility toward the results of laboratorv research may 
result in a more receptive attitude toward Moutcs^iori 's approach to 
the study of the child. For, though she was a careful experimenter 
and keen observer, she bad no expectations of reducing her 
contribution to irrefutable scieiitific theories tlirough laboratory 
procedures. Her concentration on the nniqneucss of man and his 
s])ontaueous development prcchided any such dream. Rather tbau 
arguing the scientific merits of her work, it may be more useful to 




consider it as belonging to tlic rc\ilni of naturnl pliilo.sophy: an area 
of study .soniewliat neglected in recent year . per traps, but one tliat 
is once again l>eginning to receive attention— even from scientists.'^ 

Or. Mario Jr. also discusses two further revolutionary concepts 
ot Maria Montessori in Ins lectures: lier view of education as a 
necessity in tlie formation of tlie luunan personality and the 
relationship of man to the cosmos. Her developmcjit of "cosmic 
education" in response to her convictions concerning the latter is 
particularly important for oi*r world today. 

Education for Uiwiau Development succeeds in conveying the 
deptli of Maria Montessori's contribution to human knowledge as 
no book before it has done. Montessori made revolutionary 
discoveries regarding human development that have imjjlications 
far beyond a simple shift to new educational approaches or 
techniques. The author's unicjuc background, combining as it does 
psychoanalytic experience and an intimate knowledge of Mon- 
tessori, has made possible an articulate discussion of these discov- 
eries and their relation to the jjroblcnis and opportunities of the 
modern world. His discussion of modern jjsychology and psycho- 
analytic concepts as they relate to Montes.sori, and of the role of 
work and play in the develo|nneut ' of human personality, arc 
particularly outstanding. 

Because the originar audience foT Mario fr.'s lectures were 
Montessori parents and teachers, they presuppose some working 
knowledge of classroom procedures. For those who may not have 
such knowledge, an appendix containing impressions from a 
morning visit to two classes in a Montessori school has been 
included. Hopefully, it will convey to the reader at least the flavor 
of Montessori classroom life. 

Paula Polk Lillard 





\. One notable exception is J. McVicker Hunt's excellent, hut 
necessarily brief, introduction to the American edition of The Montcssori 
Method, pnbhshed hy Schockcn Books in 1964. Also see M. M. Mon- 
tessori, Montessori Method-Science or Bchef? (Ainsterd;nn: A. M. I 
ConK!uniications, 1968), p. 8. 

2. Philhpe Aries, Centuries of Childhood (New York: Knopf, 1962). 

^. Elizabeth Janeway, Mans World, Women's Place (New York: Arno, 

4. Maria Montessori, Education and Peace (Chicago: Regnerv, 1972) 

5. Ibid., p. 101. 

6. Ibid., p. 103. 

7. See n»onias Lewis, The Lives of a Cell (New York: Viking, 1974). 

8. J. Broiiowski, The Ascent of Man (Boston: Little Brown, 1973), pp 

9. Montessori, Education and Peace, p. 90. 






Maria Montessori was originally no pedagogue, but a physician 
with a deep interest in the human person, ijoth as a social being 
and as a participant in the fundamental ontologicai order. In the 
course of her career as the first woman physician in Italy, and later 
as Professor of Anthropology and Hygienics at the University of 
Rome, she actively participated in the emancipation of women. She 
enjoyed an international reputation for a decade before the onset 
of the educational experiment with which she eventually came to 
be identified by society. She gained woild fame as a pedagogue, yet 
this role, and its instantaneous effect on public opinion, actually 
took her as nuidi by surprise as did the discoveries on which it was 
based. It was iniiglit into the significance of these discoveries for a 
better understanding of the human being that motivated her 
subsequent behavior. It compelled her, on the one hand, to 
concentrate on this particular investigation to the exclusion of 
everything else, and on the other, to connuunicate her findings to 
her fellow men and to fight whatever prevented their acceptance. 

This attitude generated from the start a cultural movement of 
growing impact, one that is still going on. It* was not Montessori's 
intention to start such a movement; it was merely a byproduct of 
her activities. Her concern was to bring to light her newly acquired 
knowledge of human development. She dedicated herself whole- 
heartedly to this task, advocating the cause of the child (i.e., of man 
in becoming) throughout her long life. 



Bc'caiisc licr experiences indicated tliat edneation played a more 
essential role in this process of beconnng than was generally 
assumed. Montessori focused her attention on this particular realm 
of human activity, i lence her reputation as a pedagogue. However, 
her approach was so radically different from what is generally 
encountered in the pedagogical world that it is qnesti'^*' 'ble 
whether the label really fits her. \ believe this to be one source of 
the many controversies that have arisen in connection witli her 
work. It is. in any case, certain that she herself never fully identified 
with the role of pedjigogue nor. for that matter, with many other 
images that have been projected on her. She followed her own 
course, guided by what had impressed her as a basic truth, so far 
ignored, that should be brought to the attention of those con- 
cerned with the liuman situation. So intent was she on her purpose 
tliat she took little notice of either the ensuing praise or criticism of 
her activities. Ilcr goal was to enable others to see the basic truth 
she had discovered, so that they could be guided by it in their own 
way regardless of what they thought of her or her method. 

hi regard to her method, she was indeed strict in requesting 
those who wished to apply it in her name to follow her directions, 
'fhey would otherwise confuse the issue with regard to her own 
experiment. However, her contribution to human knowledge had a 
broader scope, and has had a wider influence, than what is generally 
known as Montessori education. Even if we consider only the ap- 
plicatioms of the latter, it is clear thiit her position as a pedagogue is 
unique compared with that of other educators. A l)rief survey of 
the Montessori movement shows growth inid development in three 
different directions. Its liorizontal growth is evident from the 
Montessori schools and training institutes found throughout the 
world. Montessori's books have been translated into twenty-two 
languages, and interest in her work v^ntf ties to spread. But these 
achievements are only geographicui! More interesting is the 
ramification of applications of her method beyond the realm of 
regular school education. The Montessori approach is followed in 
homes, in cliild care centers, in work with the liospit;di/ed. the 
maladjusted, the crippled and otherwise handicapped children, in 
teaching the socially deprived and the mentally retarded, in 
educating the blind, and in cond)ating analphabetism in adults. Its 


rite CuJitrihutiun of Miiria Motitcssori 

restriction in some arc;is is ill so interesting. Montessori education 
luis l)een forl)idclen in totalitarian countries. Montessori schools 
were clojied in Russia after the revolution* and in Germany and 
Italy at the height of imperialism, hew, if any. educational systems 
have received this kind of attention from politicians. 

The vertical growth of the Montessori movenient is clear from 
the extension of its application from the uphringing of infants to 
tile education of children up to university age. and the only reason 
the Montessori approach is not in use in universities is hecause no 
opportunity to put it into practice at that level has occurred. The 
\h)ntL\ssori method is applicahle in all social strata among the 
population of the ghettos and slums, among the middle class, 
among th.e very rich, and in pnhlic as well as in private institutions, 

A third direction in wliieh growth has occurred is through time. 
Hie Montessori movement has. since its inception, retained its 
spontaneous character, its freshness, and its stamina, notwithstand- 
ing nuich direct opposition. In many areas where it had flonrishecK 
wars or changes in the cultural climate paralyzed its course, or even 
eliminated it altogether, for long periods. Sooner or later, however, 
it reappeared with new impetus and strength, A typical example is 
its revival in the United States, After having hcen ahandoned and 
largely forgotten for many years, tlie Montessori approach was 
revived in lUc late I9S0s, There are over three thousand Montessori 
schools in the United States today, and the number increases 
rapidly each year. Montessori education is equally in demand in the 
developing countries of the world. It appears, then, to have a 
promising future; its major concern at the moment is not one of 
gaining acceptance, hut of training sufficient numbers of persons to 
cope adequately with its own growth 

What 1 have hoped to point out here is the exceptional 
position of Montessori education in the pedagogical world, 1 do not 
believe that there is any other method of education that can serve 
the objectives of all the different situations I have mentioned. 
Clearly, then, there nmst be something unusual about this one. It is 
certainly not that it can offer empirical evidence of success in all 
those fields in which it has been adopted, Montessori originallv 
worked only with sniall children, Later, she also worked with those 
in elementary schools, but her pedagogical experience stopped 



tlim'. Nor is it 1jcc;uisc licr views iirc so clearly fori- jlatcd or easily 
uiKlcrstood that her approach has such wide appeal. She was not a 
thecreticiaii. She did not construct a differentiated theoretical 
framework that paved the way for later applications of her work. 
On the contrary, in her struggle to give expression to phenomena 
that did not fit any existing theories, she often borrowed terms 
from them, dissociating thcni from their frame of reference and 
using them in her own context. 'Hiis has been the source of many 
niisinterpretatioiis of her ideas by her critics. FVom the start, the 
Moiitessori movement has been accompanied by vivid discussions 
of her method ending in a variety of divergent views, ranging from 
strong opposition to fervent approval. An anthology of the most 
relevant of these contrasting opinions has recently been published 
in Germany. > What impresses one most in it is the renewed 
actuality of the method throughout the years. 

What is it in Maria Montessori s work that can explain all these 
phenomena? If we turn to her for enlightenment, we find that her 
own conclusion was both simple and puzzling. She maintained that 
she had "discovered'' the c'hild. If, reflecting upon forty years' 
experience, Montessori condensed the essence of her contribution 
into this one phrase, then it is important to try to understand what 
she meant by it. 

One of the striking qualities in Maria Monte.ssori's personality 
was her deep respect for creaticMi. She neve:, ceased to marvel at its 
manifestations. In iier philosophical outlook, man's' cosmic task is 
to continue, collectively, the work of cr*'ation on earth, to discover 
with his intelligence the endless latent possibilities of the world's 
creations and make them manifest in new forms. It is in this way 
that num. creates his cnltural eiivirpninent. 'I'his coiiceptiqii qf^ 
encompasses his potential greatness as a creator, as well as his 
smallness and linntations in relation to God and Mis creation. This 
deep-rooted conviction about human destiny, based on her faith in 
God and man. gave Dr. Montessori the moral strength to pursue 
her objectives in life. It was also the basis of the humility and 
respect with which she approached the world and her fellow men 
throughout her life. 

It was in this spirit that she undertook furtlier scientific study of 
children. They were to her fellow human beings who should be 


ilic Contribution of Maria Montessori 


consiclcrc'.l sucli. '11 lis iltti^lKlc frcal licr of the conmion prejudices 
adults liold to\v;ird cliildrci?; in id eventually enabled her to discover 
the extremely important function of tli€ child in the forina'non of 
the lur.v.jii personality. This discr.very was not made by philosophi- 
cal methods. It was the direct result of earcful, patient, and 
systematic observations of the spontaneous behavior of children in 
a prepared environment adapted to their needs- of a scientific 
experiment based on previous experiences and pen'cnied with the 
detached involvement typical of a scientifically grooiwcd mind. 
Montessori s philosophical outlook, however, was responsible for 
her ability to see beyond the superficial uranifcstations of tlic 
children's behavior she observed. She distilled from tliem b;isic 
phenomena relevant to human development and integrated them 
into a comprehensive and coherent vision of man that took into 
account the full complexi'iV of his existence on earth. 

It was this anthropological orientation in its widest sense that 
determined Moiitessori\s revolutionary conception of education as 
an aid to life, and it is to my mind the most valuable aspect of the 
spiritual inheritance she has left us. 

Professor N. Pcrquiii of the University of Nijmegeii, in high- 
lighting Montessori's contribution as the starting point of a new 
vision of education, remarks in this connection, **\Vithout knowing 
it, she made possible an encounter between pedagogy, modern 
psychology, and sociology, even theology and philosophy.*' ^ Mon- 
tessori's aim, from the start, had been to contri'-?.^*'; to a com- 
prehensive science of man. This science could not, acC' ^ nng to her, 
be based on any single discipline, but should result from the 
concerted endeavors of different scientists studying human beings 
from whatever angles modern science permit -ed and the integra- 
tion of their findings into a sufficiently broad and differentiated 
conceptual matrix. This integration should not be done in an 
eclectic manner, which would only confuse the issues. Rather, it 
should be based on a tentative blueprint eiicoiiipassiiig the 
different fundamental aspects of the human situation. This global 
model should be related to findings from the different branches of 
science, and the modifications indicated by an investigation of their 
interrelationships should be made. 

Although this pluralistic approach is by no means currently 



accepted, tciulciicies toward a more articulate investigation ac- 
knowledging important differences in luunan l)eliavior, and aiming 
at an integration of tlic relevant findings, arc slowly wiiMiing groimd 
in the lunnan'scienccs.-^ Montessori herself contributed a bhieprint 
for this investigation by the various sciences. One of its aiajor 
aspects is the adaptive and constructive role of tlie child in human 
life. In one of her writings Montessori states that 

the great power of man is that lie adapts to every part of the 
et'ivironnieiit and that he modifies it. For tliis reason every man that 
is born must pr^pnre his personality anew. There is no hereditary 
adaptation in individuals; each nmst develop -'unetliing wliicli 
corresponds to it. At birtli a child does uGt have the behavior 
characteristics of the group into wiiicli lie is horn; he has to create 
and prepare them. He has to learn their language and the customs 
and the use of their implements, etc. In otlicr words, while 
developing himself he uncoiiseiously develops his own adaptation to 
his environment. To understand the child's tendencies witli the 
purpose of educating him. we must :ee man in correlation with his 
cnvironineut and how his adaptation to it is created.' 

1'his implies that human development i^ tlie result of an uncon- 
scious creative activity of the individual, and that this process is 
otdy possible in association with others. It is only in the connnunity 
that man's potentialities can be reahzcd. This is the work of the 
child, guided from within by special sensitivities inherent in the 
various stages of development. 

Children need more than adults' love and protection to perform 
this double task of adaptation and construction. They need their 
active help. This implies tliat education is a fundamental aspect of 
the formation of man- a concept that will be dealt with at. greater 
length in later chapters. It is sufficient here to mention that 
Montessori's conception of the nature of human experience 
envisaged the complexity of human beings and the numerous 
factors determining their behavior and further existence in real life, 
without ever loiing sight of the unity of their personalities. Of 
course, she was not able to study all aspects of human development 
herself. Several of her ideas were inferred from her own experiences, 
others were conclusions based on her work, or conjectures based on 


'ihc Coutrihution of Maria Montensori 

intuition, or jncrc glinuncrs of po.ssil)lc avenues of furtlicr investiga- 
tion. It is for tliis reason that the term l)lneprint luis !)een used witli 
regard to iicr tlieoretical fornuilations. 

I consider it significant tluit Montessori's model of deveic^pnient 
corresponds in tlic main with that arrived a?- by psyclioaualysts. In 
my experience,' psyclioanalysiv is the only branch of empirical 
science that has accepted the challenge of studying man with this 
type of composite frame of reference. Neither Montcssori nor 
psycliQanaly.siN tries to simplify or reduce the complexity of the 
picture o nuni to fit a special theory. Instead, both .ickiiowlcdge 
the diversity of -factors detcrniining human devdopuient and 
behavior. 'I'l>ey*endeavor to cope with them in concordance with 
the findings obtained by observations of spontaneous behavior in a 
specially prep:^rcd setting. 1*he .sititation in both cases is so 
structured that it activates certain aspects of behavior that would* 
not otherwise manifest them.sclves with the same clarity and 
contiiuiity. 1*his makes it possible to study plienoniena not noticed 

The situation is a complicated one in the sense that the same 
person nuist function as an observer and as a participant in the 
relationship that en.sues. Another set of l^eliavioral factors is 
brought into play by the dynamics of the situation: in the case of 
the classroom, those pertaining to the teacher. In addition, the 
classroom situation involves a wnole^roup of ot. "rs as well. These 
arc necessary complications, hcvvevcr, tor human behavior can oidy 
be studied in the setting of hu aiau relations if it is to be considered 
from the viewpoint of spontaneous development. We cannot avoid 
this cirennistance. 

In both the psychoanalytic and the Mpntessori approach, the 
" r ela tiol i o f "obseiH ^r- pa r t ici paii t a i id pa r ti cipa li t sHoVi 1 d be one of 
alba nee ba.sed on nuitual respect and confidence. The observer- 
parl'icipant should be carefully trained. He should be interested in 
the' phenomena he is observing and understand them. He should 
allow situations to develop freely, abstaining from intervention 
when it is not necessary and acting appropriately when it is. Mis 
actions should be determined by the situation and its objectives, 
never by his ovvn impulses or wishes, which niiglit interfere with the 
process at hand. Mis aim should be to remove obstacles that inhibit 




tlic natural course of t.'vc!its. to promote iiisiglits tliat furtlicr it, iJnd 
to lid'p work tlicse tlirou;^- I lis attitndc should he one of cinpathy> 
cooperation, and patience. 

Of course, the objectives of psychoanal\'sis and Montessori 
education are quite different, as is the uiateri;tl that is studied. 
Their findings, however, tend to confirm and to coniplenvcnt each 
other. It is especially significant that the n^odels to which they lead 
have a similar structure, Montessori herself explicitly identified her 
method with psychoanalysis. Regarding modern pedagogy, which 
had previously been limited to the study of external phenomena, 
she remarked, "To borrow medical terminology, we might say that 
it WAS an attempt to cure the symptoms without seeking the 
essential but obscure cause." She then proceeded to illustrate the 
limitations of symptomatic therapy, contrasting it with psycho- 
analysis, which dpals with the causes of behavior.-'^ This similarity 
between Montessori education and psychoanalysis may, inciden- 
tally, explain the striking parallel in the vicissitudes each has 

Montessori's view of the specificity of mankind as a species 
differs from that of the sciences, even psychology. To my kiiowl- 
(.dge» it is only that train of psychological thought based on 
philosophical anthropology, the influence of which is mainly 
confined to German-speaking countries, which departs explicitly 
from this assumption. Empirical psychology in general does not, 
Montessori'sr position in relation to it requires, therefore, some 
further consideration. Her medical studies gave a sound biological 
basis to her later conceptions of man's development and behavior, 
but they in no way shook her firm conviction of his specificity in 
relation to other living beings. One finds it postulated even in her 
doctor^s thesis as the fraine of reference for "an otherwise piire 
ehnical psychiatric treatise.*^ In her very last book she still held this 
position, stating that 

What causes ns to distinguish between species is always their 
differences, never their likeness. What constitutes another species is 
always something new. . . . The human species has a double 
embryonic life. ... Ft is built to a new design, and has a fre^h destiny 
in relation to tiie other creatures. . . . This is the point at which we 


lite Contribution of Maria Montessori 


snust pjiusc, and make ;i fresh start in all our studies of child 
development and of mun's psycliological sidc.^ 

Modern psycliology luis not yet made tliis start, altliongli sonic 
tentative recent developments seem to indicate that it may yet do 
so. In the main, however, psychology is still strongly influenced by 
American behaviorism, which explicitly ignores the existence of a 
fmidamental difference between man and other living beings, 
Behaviorisnrs impact on iiiDdern learning theory is particularly 
strong. But whatever merits this approach may have in highlighting 
certain features of human behavior that are common to other 
animals, and which can therefore, in principle, be studied through 
experiments with the latter, it is too limited in scope and tc o one- 
sided to further our understanding of the human being as such. It 
perforce excludes from investigation all aspects of his personality 
that cannot be encompassed within its artificially restricted frame 
of reference, if its findings are not iiitegrafred into a more 
comprehensive scientific conception of iiiaii, modern psychology 
and modern learning theory will have no contribution to offer in 
the solution of the ever-increasing social problems with which 
humanity is confronted in our technological era. These will always 
bring us back to the study of the individual personality in its own 
right. If one considers man as an anima! and explicitly ignores those 
fundamental differences that distinguish the one from the other, 
one will convincingly demonstrate that man is, for all practical 
pur])ose.s\ just a naked ape, as Desmond Morris has so eiitcr- 
tainingly demonstrated,^ However, the resulting conception of man 
Will be restricted and distorted, and therefore unscientific. 

In seeking to understand the uniqueness of mankind as a 
species; a distinction should be made between growth and develop- 
ment, These two concepts are often confused or misused in modern 
psychology, leading to ambiguous or arbitrary conclusions in some 
studies. For example, consider the findings of Coghill,^ who has 
made such a marvelous analysis of his concise anatomical studies in 
relation to behavior, and Bruner,*^ who has carefully studied 
relevant patterns in the unfolding of intelligence as a basis for a 
theory of instruction. Both use these two concepts alternatively, 
writing of the growth when, in fact, they should refer to the process 




involved as clcvclopmeiit. 1 do not believe that this is because they 
would not understand, or could not accept, the difference between 
the two. Nor do I believe that their choice of one term rather than 
the other is random, although they may not be conscious of their 
motivations. Whatever the case niay be. the terms they use 
influence their conclusions, even if in different degrees, and affect 
their contribution to a better understanding of human behavior. 

What is the difference between growth and development? 
Growth implies only an enlargement; or self-nniltiplication of an 
existing form. Carrel describes, for example, the cellular colonies 
proceeding from a particle of the heart of the embryo of a chicken, 
which continued to nniltiply for a period of twenty-three years in a 
controlled ^environment. The modifications in the original are only 
quantitative, not qualitative.** Development is growth directed 
toward the production of an organism in accordance with a 
predetermined design. What exists at the start is only the design. 
Hiis design includes an organizing and integrative principle that 
determines the course of growth and maintains the unity of the 
organism throughout the growth process. It does not include the 
form the organism will take. To create this form requires qualita- 
tive, as well as quantitative, transformations of the original, and 
hence an interaction with the environment. Furthermore, it 
involves an anticipation of future needs. That is. there exist 
potentialities for the formation of special behavior patterns related 
to future functions that may or may not be realized. An example is 
the impressive development of the embryo from conception to 
birth. During a relatively short period of time, an infinitesimal cell 
becomes a being capable of a totally different form of life. To talk 
in extremes, if one used the term growth for this process, one would 
be reverting to the preformation theories adhered to before the ■ 
onset of endjryology; if one used it for postnatal development, one 
would be reverting to the theories of faculty-psychology. Of course, 
nobody would do this today. However, the idea that developmental 
and niaturational aspects of behavior are predetermined, and 
therefore exclusively the result of the growth proces.s. is wide- 
spread. The counterpart -of this idea is that the aspect of behavior 
complete in the embryonic stage, nian accomplishes in his postnatal 
conditioning and instruction. 71ie two scientists mentioned above. 


'I he Contribution of Maria Montassori 


; Briiiicr iiiid Cogliill. Ikivc now iiccc])tecl the fact tluit the creative 
process comes into phiy in growth and learning. I'hey were 
reluctant to do so/however. and only the evidence obtained from 
their own investigations convin'^ed them it was necessary. 

Montcssori's insight in this connection is quite fundamental 
and indeed simple. At birth man is relatively inunaturc compared 
with other primates. This is a statement of fact. Consequently, part 
of the "process of growth and development that these animals 
complete in the embryonic stage, man accomplishes in his postnatal 
state, when he is ex])osed to influences from the outside world. I'his 
is; wliat Montcssori means when she refers to the double eiwbryonic 
life of the human species. She sees this further development as a 
continuation of the embryonic process, during which the individual 
actively participates in the proces.s and it is related to the outer 
environment. It is therefore a psychological order. The postnatal 
stage is a formative period of intense activity during which the child 
must create in him.self the basic structure of his personality. 
Nothing is preestablishecl. The child has only the potentialities 
needed to give form and content to his psychic life and, subse- 
quently, to construct the basic patterns of behavior necessary to 
function independently in his environment. 

The fact that this stage of development is still so little 
understood is, in my opinion, a paramount obstacle to the progres.s 
of the behavioral sciences. Biological evidence corroborating this 
principle in embryonic life was produced in 1940 by Cogbill. IVIaria 
Montcssori attached nuich importance to it. It seemed as if Coghill 
had reached conclusions similar to hers when he wrote, "Man is, 
indeed, a mechanism, but he is a mechanism which, within his 
limitations of life, sensitivity, and growth, is creating and operating 

himself.': „; ' ; of his relative freedom from heredity, man nuist create 
within himself the organizing principle for directing his behavior. 
In a profound and detailed study of this subject. Dr. Andre Berge 
explains how man can only find his way in a world that he can 
conceive of as structured, physically as well as psychically. Man 
spontaneously classifies chaos according to a certain order. He can 
eventually replace this order with another order, but he cannot do 
without some kind of order. Dr. Berge sees in man's basic need for 




on\cT tlic iiiiivcrsiil root of the iiioriil ])hciu^uicnoii. ;i pliciioincnoii 
'fluit iiiitiallv' appears as an orgaiii/iug principle. It is cvcntnalK 
incar:uitLcl in the moral apparatus of man and pcrnn'ts us U) exist 
with a niininiinn of damage to others and [o onrseKes. It ean, 
moreover, be the source of a s])eeial kind of ])leasnre; that of doing 
what we believe to he right, llenee, morality is not simply an 
internali/.ed penal code. The great motor of our moral apparatus is 
love. This love is shifted, more or less, from the senses to the spirit; 
but it is nonetheless the same force that takes an individual out of 
himself and toward something for which he is capable of forgetting 
l)ersoiial interests.'"* 

The acquisition by an infant of its mother tongue is the best 
demonstration of that special cpiality {)f the child in the fi-rst years 
of life that Montessori calls the absorbent mind. **A special 
mechanism exists for language," she writes. '*N{)t the |){)ssession of 
language in itself, but the possession, of this mechanism which 
enables njen to make languages oi' their own, is what distinguishes 
the human species." ^ * hAery normal child is able to speak its native 
tongue at the age of four. The actual language is dependent on the 
environnieut of the child, and there are iudivichial differences in 
the moment the first intentional words arc spoken and in subse- 
cjuent i)rogress and accuracy. I lowever, the characteristic ability of 
an infant to master a language in this intensive way is universal. An 
adult no longer possesses this ability. Plicnomeuologically, there is 
an essential difTereuce between the infant's conquest of its uu)tlier 
tongue and an adult's learning of a new language, which entails 
effort and determiiiatiou. An infant learns a language playfully, and 
it becomes part of him. This miracle can only he aelu'eved through 
some inner urge— a special sensitivity and a heightened direction of 

The embryonic state of the human infant lasts approximately 
three years. At this time the human personality reaches a first level 
of integration. In the next three years a conscious elaboration and 
enrichment of what has been acquired unconsciously takes phice. 
Tlie type of mind i ; tJie .same, but the child is more susceptible to 
adult influence with regard to learning. In the first period this 
influence is niaiidy tlic result of unconscious mechanisms deter- 
mined by the emotional development of the child, which, in turn. 


I'he Contribution of Maria Montessori 1> 

is dcpciiclciit on tljc cliiUrs close rc.iitioiisliip with the. adults who 
care for it. Introjcctioii. imitation, and identification arc of 
particular importance in the formation of hehavior patterns and 
the acqnisition of cultural attitudes. 

Ill the second period this cojithiiu?s, but adults are now 
consciously acknowledged by the child as the source of information 
on social and cultural aspects of its existence. Because of its growing 
interest in these, the child turns spontaneously to adults with its 
queries. If it is not rejected, it responds with feelings of gratitude, 
trust, aiul respect for these superior beings who are willing to help it 
orient itself in it.s world. Its development continues to be guided 
from within by sensitive periods— time spans in which the child is 
sensitive to an incredible degree to a particular activity or interest. 
Discovered by Montcssori in the early part of the century, these 
sensitive periods were completely ignored by academic psychol- 
ogists until the late 1960s, when it was noted that niodeni research 
on the acquisition of linguistic skills had introduced the concept to 
account for data that could not otherwise be explained.^** 

Sensitive periods occur throughout the whole period of youth, 
lliis process is so long in man simply because all aspects of his 
personality nuist be formed by his own experiences as he interacts 
with the environment within a given connnunity. The process of 
growth, maturation, and individuation, the result of the actualiza- 
tion of individual potentialities, is slow. These potentialities must 
be adapted and internalized in accordance with the developmental 
pattern typical of the human, species. This cannot be achieved 
without the help of adults, help which is only available if love is the 
binding force in their relationship with the child. 

Work is often considered as something forced on human beings 
by circumstances. Many forms of work in modern society certainly 
confirm this view. It may also have been applicable when self 
preservation inevitably involved work. However, work is also linked 
with man's creativity and is a universal phenomenon characteristic 
of the human species. One of Montessori's discoveries was that 
there are potentialities in the human personality that correspond to 
all such universal phenomena, directing the growing individual to 
perform .specific activities, T*lic experiences that result from these 
activities are needed to prepare him to perform functions that will 




Idc relcvjiit Jt j lutcr level of intcgrutioii. This principle of indirect 
prepjrjtion is ju esseiitijl feutiirc of development. Ft is indirect 
prepurjtion thut eventually enables an individnal to participate as 
an independent adult in those activities typical of the hnnian 
species. The earliest roots of development ine formed in the 
years of life. These are the most important because, like language, 
they become part of the child. S ince these developmental processes 
are nnconscions, it is difficult to change them once the personality 
has been consolidated at the end of the first formative period, at 
about six years of age, and even more difficult after puberty. 

The impact of early experiences with regard to emotional 
development has been fully confirmed by psychoanalytic studies, ft 
is Montessori's achievement to have created conditions that 
permitted children to manifest their natural developmental pro- 
pensities as part of ongoing working behavior. She gave children an 
appropriate environment and guided freedom within it so that they 
could act according to their inner needs, rhythm, and tempo, and as 
a result, they exhibited characteristics not generally attributed to 
them. These included deep and prolonged concentration, the 
repetition of exercises for their own sake, an urge to make a 
niaxiinmn effort, control of movements, a sense of order, and other 
phenomena. Perhaps the most astounding result of her approach 
was the intensity with which children approached activities. 'Hieir 
wliolc persouidities were involved in them, and it was obvious that 
they were finding in their experiences the kind of pleasure and 
satisfaction that (ndy results wlien basic needs are gratified. 'f1ie 
aim of these activities wjs not to be found in the outer world, but 
within the qhildren. They were forming their own personalities, 
constructing the men and women they were one day to become, 
liven after a forceful internaticnial campaign by Montessori for half 
a century, this dirrerencc in the aim of children's activities and 
adults* activities is still generally disregarded. Children's activities 
are still evaluated primarily from an adult point of view. Kven those 
dedicated to the study of developjincntal psychology cannot 
sufficiently free themselves from the ingrained idea that a child is 
an inferior being. I'lierefore. they cannot discern the characteristics 
that can easily be observed when one is able to approacii the child 
as a human being in his own right. 


Ihc Contribution of Maria Montessori 


It is clear from an analysis of 1' .tiian devdopincnt that 
education is an indispensable function in the formation of man. 
Montessori has pointed out that man's present predicament is 
caused by the lack of balance between him and his environment.*' 
Education is the only means uiiereby we can hope to alter this 
situation. However, education can only help if it is reformed, if it is 
based on a better understanding of the human being, and, in 
particular, of the function of the child with regard to the formation 
of the human personality. 

1'lie panoramic view of Maria Monte.ssori's fundamental and 
original contribution to human knowledge that 1 have tried to give 
in this chapter necessarily leaves out a wealth of detail and perhajos 
crowds too many ideas into a few pages. 1 hope, however, that it 
will serve as a base for the succeeding chapters, which deal in more 
detail with the relationship between Montessori a!id the sciences, 
the Montessori approach to work, and Montessori and traditional 
education. Chapter 2 is devoted to the Montessori materials, in 
particular their psychological background and their role in the 
social developuieut of the child. It also attempts to clarify 
Montessori's position on play, which is so often misunderstood. 
Later chapters treat the role of education in today's world and the 
contemporary revolution in values as it relates to Montessori 


1. Giintcr Scliulz Bcncsch. "Montessori." in Wege der Forschuni;, 
vol. X.\ (Dariiistaclt: Wivscnsduiftliclic Buchgcscllscliaft. 1970). 

2. N. Percjuin. S.).. in Op zoek naar een pada^ogisch denken, ). ). 
Ronicn. td. (Moogvcld Institnte). 

^. In psychology, a erouir.g discontent with behaviorism, learning 
tiieor\', and ncopositivism is leading to a more Innnan approach. See. for 
example.'. C KlnckiioIuK .\h>ror for Man (New York: McGraw-Hill. 19-49). 
and J*'. K. Kmcry and K. I.. Trist. Towards a Social Ecology: Contextual 
Appreciation of the Future in the Present (New '^'ork: Plenum. 197>). 

4. Maria .Montessori. The Meanini^ of Adaptation (.Amsterdam: 
A.M.I. Conunnnic:itions, 1961), 

5. Maria Montess(jri. 'Fhe Child in the Fanuly (C Chicago: Regncry, 
197(1,, pp. 112'n. 



6. Maria Montcssori. Contributo cUnico alio studio delle al- 
lucinazioni a contenuto antagonistico (Rome. 1S96). 

7. Maria Montcssori. The Absorbent Mind (New York: Holt. 
Rincliart and Winstt.M. 1%7) pp. 60-61. 

S. Desmond Morris. The Saked Ape (Nt\v/^'ork: McGraw-Hill. 

9. G. IL Gogliill. Anatomy and the Problem of Behavior (New York 
and London: Ilafner. 196*1). 

10. Jerome S. Brnner. Toward a Theory of Instruction (Cambridge. 
Mass.: Harvard ' University Press. 1966). 

11. Alexis Carrel. Man, the Unknow'n, re\ . ed. (New York: Harper & 
Brothers. 19^9). 

12. Coglnll. p. 110. 

n. Andre Berge. Les maladies de la vcrtue (Paris: Petite Bibliotheque 
Payot. 1960). pp. >M0. 

14. Montessori. The Absorbent Mind, p. ^7, 

Iv With regard to the acquisition of language I particularly wish to 
recommend Kric H. Lenneherg's Biological Foundations of Language, 
with appendices by Noam Chomsky and Otto Marx (New York: Wiley. 
1967). It is a challenging, original, erudite study that corroborates many of 
.Maria Montessori's views on this subject with a wenitli of evidence and 
offers ample opportunity for a scientific discussion of others. 

16 H. C. J. Dnykcr and R. \^iyk, Leerboek der Psychologie (Gro- 
ningcn. NetheHands- W olters-Noordhoof, 1969). p. 281. "gevoelige per- 

17. Maria Montessori, The Formation of Man (Adyar, India: Ka- 
labhetra. i9>=5),pp. 14-17. 



Function and Relationship 
to the Child^s Worky Play, 
and Social Life 

Moiitessori saw education as a means vvliercby cliildren might 
develop their personalities so as to eventually achieve a mature and 
independent adulthood. She designed her edueational material to 
aid them in this endeavor. This fundamental function of the 
material is generally disregarded when it is compared with the 
equipment found in most prepriniary classrooms. Disappointment 
with the Montessori material results because the comparisons that 
are made are only superficial. This superficial approach is encour- 
aged by adherence to cither of the two main trends of current 
thought in education. One of these holds that young children 
should be free to express their urges and fantasies without restraint, 
thus experiencing a niininunn of frustration. Objects should mainly 
ser\e to offer possibilities of gratification. In handling them, the 
children will also discover some of their objective qualities, but this 
is more or less a side issue. Learning at this early stage is held to 
hamper the uninhibited development of the child's personality, 
and therefore to be something that should not be enforced by 
organized teaching. I*>om this point of view, the Montessori 
material appears too rigid. 

llie second approach to education popular today considers alk 
development an integral part of the learning process, and all 
learning to be the result of conditioning, deeonditioning, or 
reconditioning originally simple reflexes. Knowledge can therefore 





be giiincd from experiments witli rats unci otlier animals, and then 
applied to liuman beings in a learning situation. Altliougli the 
Innnan organism achieves a higher level of differentiation, the 
chains of reactions encountered basically correspond to the same 
mechanical model. Whatever new theoretical constructs nnv. be 
envisaged uuist obey the laws inherent in this basic theory. This is 
considi'red to be true even before the switch to the exprrimenta- 
tion and observation of humans is made. Any imagiwablc skill 
within the abilities of the nervous system at a given stage of 
maturation can thus be acquired by the individual, providing an 
appropriate conditioning based on the accepted theoretical laws 
can be undertaken. Those accepting this view will find the 
Montessori material lacking in detailed systemi/.ation; for instance, 
in the programming of instructions. They will, therefore, consider it 
too limited in scope for proper learning. 

This is an incomplete and oversimplified exposition of two 
widely accepted approaches in education, but \ hope it will serve to 
make my point concerning Montessori education clear, ft does 
include the more fundamental viewpoints of these schools of 
thought. However, they arc seen only as parts of the basic 
educational pattern, a pattern tliat is derived from a broader 
conception of human development, 'f'he discussion above also 
illustrates an important point concerning education in general. 
Whether it is being explicitly postulated or not, the aims of 
education and the... methods used to achieve these aims are 
deterinmed' by the psychological matrix resulting from the under- 
lying general conception of human development. 

Montessori actually presents a third, more comprehensive 
conception of education. As I have mentioned, she sees a basic 
biological difference between men and animals. T'his difference is 
cleady visible in the patterns underlying the beliavior of individual 
Innnan beings, which are not predominantly determined by hered- 
ity. Man must build these inner structures from which he evolves 
his per.sona: behavior during his lifetime, and from his own 
experiences. In aninnils, instinct predominates and otiier functions 
are subordinate. An animal's general behavior and the relation of 
its species to its specific environment are included in the pattern of 
instinct with which it is born, and are therefore hereditary, fn man, 
that which corrcspo.vds to this aspect of the animal instinct 


'riie Montcssori Materials 


niateriiili/.cs only after birtli. It is an inner crciition acconiplislicd In- 
man in tlic conrsc of liis yontli. wliicli is more protracted tlian tliat 
of any otlier living being. Tins creation takes place in a rehitionsliip 
of dependence on tlie eonnnnnity in wln'cli the individual develops, 
and from winch he cannot he considered a separate entit\ . 

However, this does not imply that man is a product of his 
cnviroinnent, or that his development is left to chance. It is. rather, 
a complex process directed hy inner drives that succeed one -mother 
at certain periods in his life. These drives are closely interrelated 
vvitli tlic sequences of maturation and develojnnent. as well as with 
outer reality. Tliese iimer directives, however, are of a different 
order than animal instincts. Montessori called them "guiding 
instincts." They indicate the route man's mental development will 
take. Because this development can only take place witliin society, 
tlic cultural values of the time will help define its form. 

Inner development nmst juecedc independence. Therefore, it is 
tins inner development that is the child's major task. To accom- 
plish it, the child is equipped with certain potentialities that do not 
e.xist, as such, in adnlts. One of these Monte.ssori called "the 
absorbent mind." Through their close emotional ties with those 
who take care of them, children actively absorb, during the first 
years of life, the basic patterns they encounter in their social 
environment. From these their personal behavior will take shape. 
This pronounced sensitivity to and eagerness to assimilate impres- 
sions from the outside exists not only in relation to other living 
beings and their behavior, bnt encompasses everything that goes to 
make up the child's world. His emotional relationship with the 
external world is so intense that it strongly inlRuences his whole 
being. This is why Montessori has called the child hi this phase of 
development the "spiritual embryo.'* In later stages of develop- 
ment, children are led toward maturity by "sensitive periods" tlvjit 
stimulate them to carry out certain activities and to acquire certain 
experiences. These are necessary for the further structuring of their 
own personalities in relation to their environment. The jjo.ssibilitics 
offered by the snrronndiiig world determine whether this pre- 
disposition toward new experiences with their resulting cnriclnuent 
of the personality, is fully stimulated, merely used in jxirt, or even 

According to Montessori, education should be an aid to life. 



Tlicrcforc, it iiiiist he an iiistruiiiciit for tlic support aiicl guidaiicu 
of the child in tlic iiioiiiiiiiLMital task of constructing tlic foundation 
of Ills personality. 'I'liree factors determine the course of this inner 
construction. The first is the child's own psyche, with its specific 
needs, potentialities, and sensitive periods, wiiich determines the 
pace and direction of its inner development. This development 
does not occur in straight lines, hut shows fluctuations and 
individual differences. The second is the cultural connnuuity, with 
its standards, hahits, patterns of heliavior, ideals, religion, and 
knowledge of all other aspects of its civilization. It is the prevailing 
order of this connnunity that permits the child to achieve an inner 
harmony. The third is the material world with all its ohjective 
qualities, to which man nnist adapt himself in order to he able to 
utilize his own faculties freely. 

*['he cnvironnicMt of uiodern man is highly differentiated and 
complex. .V being confronted for the first time by the present world 
could not help but fee! confused. Yet a child, once it has left the 
confinement of its mother's wond), must eventually conic to terms 
with this world. It can only do this through experiences. Adults 
nmst give it the freedom to gain this experience in its own way. At 
the sauic time, they nnist help it, when possible, to explore and 
assimilate its world and the principles prevailing in it. They nnist, 
therefore, construct a bridge between their world and that of the 
child. Moiitessori education provides this bridge through the 
prepared environment. It is here that the Montessori material plays 
a fundamental role. The idea is not to reproduce the adult world in 
miniature, or to distort reality into a make-believe paradise in 
which cmldreirs wishes and fantasies are the only things considered. 
Rather, the prepared cnvironiiieut should bring the wodd at large, 
and thus the adult world, within reach of the child at whatever 
stage of development it is at a given inonient. 

In order to achieve this, the prepared environment should meet 
certain general requirements. First, it should be attractive, aesthet- 
ically and practicallv, from the standpoint of children of different 
age groups, but reflect that amount of organization and order 
necessary for a eoninuniity to function properly. The rules used to 
achieve this should be valid for all. They ought to be derived not 
from the adult's wish to impose his authority, 1)ut, as in regulating 


The MoTitvasori Materials 


traffic, from a desire to allow every individual freedom of indepen- 
dent activity as long as his freedom does not interfere with that of 
others. The prepared environment should also stinnilate the 
interest of the children in the kind of purposeful activities they 
need to further their general development. It nnist also be so 
arranged that they can carry out these activities in their own way 
and at their own rate. The environment should not be centered on 
a single function or skill, but call to a child's whole personality. 
Moreover, there should be ample opportunity in the environment 
for tlie child to practice, work through, and integrate with previous 
skills any new function or skill that has been acquired. This should 
also be true with regard to general behavior. Children should feel 
comfortable in the prepared environment. Their limitations as well 
as their possibilities should be taken into consideration in creating 
it. It should be made to measure for them so that they have the 
opportunity to behave independently whenever they have learned 
to do so. .'\dults should guide and help the child when necessary, 
but not unnecessarily. If, for example, toilet training has been 
successful and children can be independent in this regard, they 
should not have to ask the aid of an adult just because the utilities 
available are too big for them. These should be adapted to the 
children's smaller stature. So should the furniture and any other 
objects in the environment that are there for their use. If the 
environment is not so arranged, the children are constantly 
confronted with tasks wliich they see adults perform and which 
they know they could do also, if they were not too small in relation 
to the objects involved. They may coine to regard adults, therefore, 
as powerful rivals instead of models. Finally, tlie prepared environ- 
ment should contain material purposely constructed and selected 
to provide the children with the means of having certain basic- 
experiences pertinent to their development. The Montessori mate- 
rial is not purely didactic, nor does it consist of toys, although the 
children lenrn from it and play with it, and, what is more, love 
doing so. 

The Montessori material is only one of several devices by which 
the Montessori princijjles find expression. Now that its position has 
been established within the general frame of reference of the other 
two approaches to education, we can consider its special function. 



KnilC.VnON FOR HUMAN DK\ Kl.()l»MKN r 

When used properly, tliis material serves two main purposes. On 
the one hand, it furthers the inner development of the child: 
specifically, the indirect preparation that must precede the develop- 
ment of any new ego function. On the other, it helps the child to 
acquire new perspectives in its exploration of the objective world. It 
makes it aware of certain qualities of the objects, their interrela- 
tionships, existing principles of differentiation .within a given 
category, organizational sequences, and special techniques for 
handling the objects. It challenges the intelligence of the child, 
who is first intrigued and later fully absorbed by the principles 
involved. If a spark is lit, a principle discovered, it awakens in the 
child an urge to exercise its newly acquired insight through endless 
repetitions of the action that led to it. When the child has fully 
mastered the principle involved, it spontaneously proceeds to apply 
it in handling all kinds of objects. The material does not, in the first 
place, teach children factual knowledge. Instead it makes it possible 
for them to reorganize their knowledge according to new principles. 
This increases their capacity for learning. Because the material 
serves this function, Montessori referred to it as materialized 

I should like to illustrate these two main aspects of the material 
with some examples. All ego functions, like perception, thinking, 
languar^e, the comprehension of objects, and the coordination of 
n)Ovenients and learning processes in general, require a long period 
of indirect preparation before they emerge as integrated aspects of 
the personality. This results in certain activities on the part of 
children which make no sense to adults. Often, children abandon 
themselves to these activities with such tenacity that it is very 
difficult to distract thein. 

I once witnessed the following scene. A small girl who was not 
yet able to walk, but who could move around quite adequately, 
palled herself up by gripping the side of the living room coffee 
table. She then began to investigate a little vase of flowers on top of 
it. She held herself upright, supporting herself by putting her left 
hand on the table, and started to pull the flowers, one by one, out 
of the vase with her right hand, putting them on the table. While 
thus engaged, she exhibited all the seriousness and concentration 
one expects from a surgeon in an operating theater. The water on 


'ihc MontcssoTi Materials 

tlie doily did not distnrl) licr. nor did licr inotlier. wlio enjoyed 
looking at this pcrfornunicc bccaasc of the intensity of pnrpose it 
expressed. As soon ns all the flowers were on the table, tlie.little girl 
started pntting them back in the vase, one by one, with the greatest 
eare. When she was finished she eoninienced to remove them again. 
This had been going on for some time when 1 entered the room. 
The little girl disregarded my entrance completely. Slie was on her 
fifth or sixth round and had no intention of stopping. It was as if 
the rest of the world did not exist for her. The njotlier and I kept 
watching her, fascinated. However, it was lunch time, and rather 
late at that, so after a while, when all the flowers were once more in 
the vase, the mother suggested going to lunch. Her d;iuglitcr paid 
no attention whatsoever, and started again with a new round. The 
mother, although appreciating the fact that this activity seemed 
important to the child, did not want to have her or the rest of the 
family miss lunch, so she continued with her summons in a friendly, 
but persistent, manner. Finally, the child, without looking up or 
interrupting what she was doing, said with some vehemence "No. 
no!**, and went on. At this point the flowers were again on the 
table, and the mother said. "Well, just put them back in the vase, 
but then we shall have lunch.** The child said "Nof* again and 
went on until the flowers were all back in place, only to start the 
proceedings all over again. Tim time her mother was firm in her 
intention and took her daughter up smilingly, promising her nice 
food and permission to continue with the flowers after lunch. The 
child was simply desperate, wailing and crying big tears, even when 
she was sitting in front of her food. It took quite a lot of cuddling 
and comforting before she calmed down. Happily, she was hungry, 
so that once she had detached her attention from her previous 
activity and her fit had passed, the alternative of eating was also 
attractive and she could again smile at the world. 

'Iliis example is typical of the sort of activity that, to superficial 
observers, seems quite superfluous, especially if they judge it by 
adult staiidard.s. What is the use of putting flowers in and out of a 
vase endlessly? Still, for a child, it can be a very serious matter. The 
purpose of the activity, however, miist be sought within the child, 
and not in the action itself or its objective aim. 

The other function of the Montessori material, to help children 




acquire new perspectives, is illustrated by the following experience I 
had with a girl four years old. We were sitting on a large couch with 
a cretonne covering that she had crawled and jumped on a great 
deal throughout her short life, as it was just under a window looking 
out on the street. We were chatting a bit in a gay mood. All of a 
sudden she lost interest iu nie, and looking quite seriously at the 
cushion on which we were sitting, said nothing for a while. I was 
wondering what might have caught her attention when she pointed 
with her small finger at a spot of the decoration in the flowery 
cretonne and said. *'l*liis is dark green." A little while later, 
pointing to another spot, she added. "And this is lighter green." 
She then found a still lighter spot and said. ''This is the lightest." 
When the green shades were exhausted, she started examining 
another color, then another, and so on. I then joined her, following 
her statements with questions about other shades, and we con- 
tinued until I had to go. Now. the interesting part of this story is 
that what the little girl lean jd with tlie Montessori material was 
not the colors themselves, nor their names, which she already knew. 
It was the coneejjt of shades, which enabled her to rediscover this 
piece of furniture she had been so accustomed to all her life. She 
was looking at her own world with other eyes, as it were, and with a 
more differentiated perception. 

These effects can only be expected when the material offered to 
a child corresponds to the kind of activities in which it has a special 
interest at that stage, and when its intelligence is sufficiently 
developed for it to grasp the idea involved. If material is given to a 
child too soon, it seenjs too difficult; if too late, it is boring. If, how- 
ever, the time is right, it will be experienced as something the child 
can conquer. Montessori material offers children symbols and a 
means of interpreting their world in a more coherent and difr.., 
ferentiated way. It therefore stinnilates their wish to learn by 
making learning neither frustrating nor burdensome, but plea- 

Whoever has .seen a Montessori child at the moment in its life 
when it discovers that it can read will never forget its happiness, its 
beaming face, its pride that a new world has been opened to it. I 
have had this privilege with my own children, and it has convinced 
me that something very fundamental and constructive happens to 


The MontessoTi Materials 


cliildreii in Montessori scliools. No matter uiiat tlieorics arc 
involved, I slioiikl not wisli to liavc-deprivcd any of uiy children of 
this iniiqnc experience. It has also bronglit something new to our 
relationship. '^Hie children now not only have the joy of reading and 
making sense out of formerly mysterious symbols, but they also 
experience the joy of sharing something with adults, something 
which until that moment belonged exclusively to the latter's world. 
Now the children have entered this world as well. They have 
something new in conjmon with the parents with whom they 
identify. The bond between them has been strengthened and made 
more realistic, and the cliiklrtn's still weak egos have been 
strengthened too. AH this has come about in a miraculous way 
without the children knowing that it would happen. It is this 
element of discovery that makes the Montessori approach to 
reading a unique and gratifying experience. 

The Montessori materials are generally used individually in the 
chi.ssroom. 11 1 ere fore, it is important to consider whether a method 
that emphasizes their use can do justice to the social needs of 

Historically, the Montessori method has been called an indi- 
vidual approach, to differentiate it from the classical approach, the 
only method in use in schools in the early part of the century. The 
fact is, however, that social education has always had an important 
place in Montessori schools. A number of factors contribute to this 
education: the role of the teacher, the free method of work, the 
prepared environment— which encourages respect for others and for 
"materials- nicl the inclusion of children of varying ages in one 

Mo.'/i. ssori described the adult's function in the classroom as 
one of guiding in contrast to teaching. In fact, she discarded the 
term teacher altogether, preferring that of directress. Without 
guidance, no single comnnniity can eonie into being. Somebody 
nmst see to the maintenance of the patterns of behavior that are 
deemed necessary for ordered coexistence within a given group. 
Although the school eonnnunity bears some resemblance to the 
family, it also differs from it, and therefore demands further social 
growth. Teachers are the representatives of this wider community. 
They must help the children by gradually familiarizing them with 




its rules, Kurthcrniorc. this must be douc iu n uiauucr tluit uuikcs 
their iuucr acccpt;uicc by the cliildrcu possil)lc. 

Tcnchcrs must uphold the rules of the school counuuiiity for 
the beuefit of the group ns well a.s th;it of iudividual children. 
Accordingly the only punishment in Montessori education is 
isolation from the group for a temporary period. If a child. behaves 
in a way that disturbs others, the teacher explains to him that 
others cannot continue their activities. She suggests that they go 
and look for something he would like to do. If he continues to be 
disruptive, he is set apart with his table, chair, and material. Me can 
still see the group, but he is isolated from it. However, be is free to 
rejoin the others when he thinks that he is once more able to 
participate. It is the social .situation that determine:! when such 
measures arc necessary, and it is the child's positive desire to belong 
that motivates him to correct his behavior. 

'Hie balance between freedom for the individual and the needs 
of the group is another :ipecial feature of social education in the 
Montessori method. One can only speak of a true connnunity when 
each member of the group feels sufficiently free to be himself or 
herself, while sinmltaneously restricting bis or her own freedom for 
the sake of adjustment to the group. It is in seeking an optimal 
solution to this tension between personal independence and 
dependence on the grouj) that the social being is formed Too 
much individual freedom leads to chaos. Too nuich uniformity, 
iiiiposed by adults, leads to impersonal conformity or to rebellion. 
The prepared environment encourages social development by 
making it necessary for the children to consider both objects and 
others. Because the environment is adapted to their inner needs, it 
is attractive and stimulating to them, ft invites tliem to engage in 
all kinds of activity. There are certain restrictions on this activity, 
however. First of all. the materials impose certain conditions. 
Controls of error are built into them. Whenever these conditions 
are not satisfied the objects themselves coirfront the children with 
their properties. The children are thus presented with problems for 
which they must seek better solutions if they wish to fulfill the tasks 
they have chosen to perform. This factual relation to the objects 
promotes inner adjustment to their enviroinnent. 

Similarly, an outward adjustment is also required, for evervthing 


Vhc Montessori \1dteriuls 


in tlic prepared eiiviroiiinciit lias its own special location. After 
material has been used, it innst be returned to its original place nnd 
condition so that other children can work with it or, not finding it» 
can know that it is already in use. 'I'his outward adjustment is 
achieved through following the instructions of the teacher, through 
the children's awareness of the needs of others, and through the 
order of the environment itself, which arouses the childrcirs desire 
to collaborate in maintaining it. These forms of adjustment are 
important aspects of the process of adaptation that dcterinines the 
social development of the individual. 

Respect for others is further developed through the childrcirs 
relationship with the teacher in the prepared environment. When a 
child first comes to school at the age of two and a half or three, it 
has little direct contact with other chiklie]i. 'Jliis is because 
eniolionally the young child turns much more to the adults in its 
surroundings. It develops a personal tie first with its mother, then 
with its father, and then with other trusted adults in its first 
milieu. A tie with its teacher becomes a further extension of this 
sequence. Teachers occupy just as imjjortant a place in a class as a 
child's mother does at home, and children turn naturally to them 
for help. The relationship that develops is less personal than the 
mother-child relationship, but a j)ositi\'e tie between teacher and 
child is the only satisfactory basis for education, l^'or this reason 
Montessori called education a teclniic|ue of love. 

Teachers must actively strive to establish a positive relationship 
so that children will approach them with confidence and accept 
their authority as a matter of course. In order to do this, they 
should make themselves as attractive as they can. not only in 
appearance but as a source of new, happy experiences. They must 
respect the children's personalities, nnderstnnd their developmental 
needs, and appreciate their achievements. In this way. they avoid 
standing opposite the children as a representative of arbitrary 
authority and take their place beside tliein as wiser persons who 
understand them and who are willing to help tlieiu m their 
endeavors to grow toward adulthood. The clrldren in turn respond 
with affection and a willingness to accept the teachers* guidance. 

Once this type of relationship has been established, they can 
gradpally help the children to become members of the class 


KlirCAI ION lOK UliMAN I)j;\'KI.<)lVMHM 

coiinnuiiity. soiuctliint; tlut is only possible when tlicy respect the 
iniferests of the group and help to inainlain the existing social order. 
They learn to use the material with care so that it remains in good 
condition for the use of others, to assist iu keeping the jnutuallv 
shared environment attractive and orderly, to behave in such a way 
that others can work undisturbed, to de\elop good manners that 
make them at ease in various social situations, and to postpone the 
satisfaction of their owu wishes when they conflict with the 
demands of reality and the needs of others. All this is done in as 
natural a wa\ as possible w henever the occasion arises. 

Moutessori was one <5f the first to rcali/.e how iujportant 
collective work is for mental development, riierefore. she strove to 
create optimal conditions for its reali/ation in her schools. Tiie 
exercises of practical life for the young children promote social 
contact both because of the nature of the task and because of the 
way in wliich they arc {)rgani/ed in the classroom. It is a connnon 
sight to see little groups of two or more children who have 
voluntarily begun to do these exercises together. Collective work 
continues to be eniph;isi/ed in Montcssori education all through 
preprimar\ and secondary education. At the beginning of a working 
period, a short lesson is given on a general subject that may interest 
the whole grouj). When this proves a success, it often results in a 
nave of activ ity among the children. Sometimes this results in their 
working together directly. At other times the\ m;?y work indi- 
vidually, on their own level and according to their own insight and 
abilities. I lowe\ er. they are at the same time taking part iu a group 
event, for their separate contributions are on a counnon subject 
and can later be seen b\ everyone as a collective acbieveuient. 
I'here are. of course, class discussions when, for example, on a 
Monday mornmg the teacher gives the children the opportunity to 
tell about their weekend experiences. In this way they learn to 
speak before a group, to give each other a chance to sjDcak. und to 
make relevant conl-^ibutions to a line of thought. M the same time 
they hear about one another's daily life, Kspecially after a vacation, 
this gives rise to compositions and drawings based on tlieir 
experiences. In addition, the children often react actively to things 
the teacher reaciN to tlieui. what the teacher says to them a])OUt a 
subject that everyone in the adult world is discussing, in the 


'I'hv XUmtesaah Materials 


preparation of a science display, and so o:k riierc arc also 
individual activities in tlic service of the group, such as the care of 
the plants and animals in the classroom, the cleaning of tlie shelves 
and materials, and the distribution of food for snacks. There are 
group activities sucli as making decorations for the classroom for 
festive days and celebrations, thi. silence lesson, exercises on the 
line, dancing, and singing. Plays and dialogues are created, and 
there are indoor and outdoor games of all sorts. In short, a good 
Montessori classroom will be the scene of a variety of collective 

It remains now to consider wliether the individual emphasis of 
tlie Montessori materials is suitable for young cliildren, for it is 
indeed true that children who are working with the materials are 
quietly doing so on tlieir own. In psychological literature this 
solitary type of occupation is generally labeled egocentric. In my 
opinion, this term is only correct if the beliavior of the child is 
judged by adult standards. This, of course, is what the psychologists 
in question actually do. »f, however, one takes account of the 
child's own nature, it is immediately clear that this term cannot be 
used to describe its activity. A small child is capable of becoming 
vvliolly absorbed and fascinated by what it is doing. But it is 
occupied witfi the materials on winch it is concentrating, and not 
with itself- 

Of course, clnldr''n in a Moniessori class do nmch niore than 
work v\ith the materuil. They are well aware of those around them, 
aud one often sees the small ones watching the work of ^^lers, 
particularly the older ones, intensely. In doing this they absorb 
much more than it seenw, and are already preparing themselves for 
nujre active social participation in the conmnmity of the class. The 
contribution of the \hnntessori classroom to the development of a 
social life sometimes goes unnoticed because of the emphasis on 
the inner growth of tlie child. Often one tliinks of social develop- 
ment in terms of mutual contact. 1*his is to underestimate the 
process involved. A long period of indirect prejjaration is indispens- 
able if a child is to develop the capacity of relating to others. As in 
all areas of Imman development, nothing is achieved innnediately 
and rectilinearly. 

Childreii quietly prci:ticiiig on their own with Montessori 




materials arc unconscionsly preparing tlieiiisclves for participation 
in tlic connnnriity in wliidi tlicy will later have to find their places 
as independent adults, '['he Montessori method is .specifically 
designed to aid them in this important task. If there are Montessori 
teachers who have not grasped this goal of education, to which the 
method owes its highly dynamic character, it is due to their own 
limitations, and not to the method itself. Any teacher or other 
adult who fails to appreciate the importance of this inner develop- 
ment devalues man to the level of a gregarious animal and denies 
the child the help it needs to become tridy what it is intended to 
be: a social being. 

\ would like now to discuss a third area related to the 
.\h)ntL\ssori materials, that of play, because it has always been-and 
still is-snrronuded by misunderstanding and criticism, fn the 
course of time, however, the direction of critical comment has 
shifted. Where formerly it was held that children in Montessori 
schools could do what they liked, and thus played all day long, 
today the reverse is contended, ft is said that tlie children may only 
do what Maria Montessori wanted them to do, so that their need 
for free piay is not satisfied. 

fn order to see Montessori's view of play in proper perspecrive, 
it is necessary to recognize the historical context in which she began 
her work. f''irst of all. schools for children under the age of five or six 
were the exceprion rather than the rule. In cases where se])afal:e 
facilities could be provided for very young child ren, thev were 
nursery facilities where toys were played with under the watchful 
eye of a governess and where they were more or less left to their 
own devices. 

Since young children were not deemed capable of anything but 
play, they were given only those objects which, in the opinion of 
adults, seemed most suitable for tins typical and rather senseless 
form of behavior. The toys that could be bought were generallv 
pretty and ingenious, but they were not sufficiently adapted to the 
children's own nature. Their design was mainly determined by what 
attracted adults. They were therefore based on a projection of 
adult likes onto children, and not on what children themselves 
needed to play with. 'I'lie practice of giving toys to children implied 


llic Montessori Materials 

a sense of superiority on tlic piirt of ikIiiUs. wlio did not take tlic 
cliildrcn's play -.crioush', hut uicrcly wanted to please tlieni. It 
reminds one c- die helunior of tlie white traders who offered hand 
mirrors and colored glass heads to the chiefs of priuiitivc tribes to 
cstaljlish good trade relations. Children's play was regarded by 
adults more as a childish business than as fundamental human 
behavior at an eaily stage of development. Only when a child did 
something that fit\:cd adult expectations, that is, when it was being 
least a child, could it exjjcct appreciation. 

Montessori, however, wanted to study children in their own 
world. 'I'herefore, in seeking the optinunn conditions for her 
scientific experiment, she let herself be guided by the spontaneous 
activity, reactions, and expressions of children. She started by 
offering them all the usual toys that were supposed to please tlieni; 
but she also introduced new ones, some of which were the same as 
the materials found in MonteS:.ori schools today, h'rom the 
children's point of view, they simply coutiinicd playing, but with 
more intriguing playthings. For the observer, however, revelations 
of lasting importance resulted. The exteriorizing of the contents of 
the chikKs own experience by creating shaiJcs out of forndess 
material, the elaboration of impressions from daily life by acting 
them out alone or with other children, the expression of dominat- 
ing emotions througli fantasies of all, kinds, and inexhaustible 
physical activity were the accepted forms of tvpical childlike 
beh avior throughout the ages, although thev were never completely 
understood, riie new aspects of child behavior that came to light 
through Montcssori's work clearly demonstrated for the first time 
that children have an inner need to learn to know themselves and 
their woikl: to develop their intelligence and other mental func- 
tions through purposeful activity, to develop control of their 
movements through the use of their bodies in specific structured 
situation.s, to organ i/.e the contents of their experience according to 
the order they encounter in the world, and, finally, through an 
accjuaintanee with the properties of things, to grow familiar with 
their environment and with their own capacities in order, even- 
tually, to become independent. 

All this happens in a manner luitural to children and of their 
own volition, and therefore should he termed play. Vet, when 




cliildrcii arc adequately aided in tliis respect, one is struck l)y the 
new qualities they develop: the niaxinunn effort very young 
children put forth, the repetition of exercises time and again-not 
for the sake of the end result-but for the sake of the activity itself, 
tlie sense of order, the intensive concentration once a task has 
aroused a clnld's interest, the joy in work, the growirr; self- 
confidence and social ease, and all the other manifestations that 
inspired Montessori to develop her educational metliod. 

Two main attitudes can be distinguished in the spontaneous 
behavior of children. The first is a desire for self-expression. The 
direction of events is, as it were, from tlie inside to the outside. 
Objects serve as a means to express tlie eontents of a clnkKs own 
experience, its capacities, and the products of its fantasy. 1'hat 
wbieli lives in the child itself is exteriorized by its use of objects and 
tlie meaning it gives them in free play. 

The less structured objects are and the more they function 
merely as raw materials, the njore appropriate thev are for this 
purpose. Clay, sand, water, beads, coloring materials, blank paper, 
art materials of many knids, ean serve very well in this connection. 
A boy running with a stick between his legs and acting out the 
fantasy that he is a mighty cowboy on horseback chasing a group of 
Indians singlehandedly, would not benefit from being given a real 
lioise, or a toy horse, in exchange for his stick. The stick does not 
even function as a syudjol of a horse. It is actually no more than a 
sign: a sign that indicates the transition between reality and fantasy 
and also maintains the connection between the two. It is similar to 
the signposts in medieval theater that indicated the scenario, which 
the stage setting itself left to the imagination of the ,spectators. 

When children, cither :done or with others, are with such 
fantasy play, adults can offer them little help. The usefulness of 
objects is also limited, for they nnist fit, or be made by the children 
to fit, into the fantasy woHd. The children alone know how that 
woHd has to be organized and what significance to assign to the 
objects, /riie objects should lend a quality of reality to the' 
children's fantasy without disturbing its free course by having too 
specific properties or by being too differentiated. In all fantasies, 
especially those with an emotional content, a child is confronted 
with its personal experience. They enable it to achieve a conscious 


The Montessori Materials 


eliiborution of tliis experience. On tlic otlier liuncl, the child gets 
none tlie wiser al)out tlie world's objective qualities, the properties 
of things iiiul their interrelations, or the organization of its 
environment from a fantasy. Children themselves give for >i to their 
fantasies, and reahty nmst comply with the dictates of ima 'ination. 

When reality does not snpport a child's fantasy, < r when 
occurrences in the innnediate enviromnent or events connected 
with the child's own body claim its attention, the child's attitude 
toward the ontor world changes. If, for instance, a screann'ng fire 
engine races past, the boy with the stick forgets for the 
moment to be a cowboy and turns with curiosity to that real 
occurrence. It is characteristic of such situations that children do 
not create their own world but are, as it were, drawn out of it by the 
call of reality and venture forth to meet the things that exist in the 
world in their own shape. Compliance must now come from the 
children's side if they want to get better acquainted with these real 
events and real things, and test them on their own merits. Things 
have their own significance and organization, their own characteris- 
tics, values, and possible uses. The world exhibits a definite 
structure in which various principles of order, laws, and mutual 
relations can be discerned. Objects in the world therefore make 
demands on the children's power of combination, on their insight, 
and on their ability to coordinate their movements. Unless these 
conditions are met, they cannot make adequate use of real work! 
things that they encounter. 

The form of inner construction taking place when children are 
engaged in fantasy play, or whether any kind of self-construction at 
all is occurring, is not known. However, as a spontaneous form of 
activity in children, fantasy play deserves serious study. Montessori 
did find that, given a choice, children chose the activities that 
eventually came to comp.ose the Montessori environment. She 
herself made no value judo^ment about this choice. She merely 
observed it, and accepted the children's behavior. The fact that 
Montessori children generally chose activities that informed them 
about the world outside themselves, may be in part the result of 
two aspects of their lives. First, the practical life activities, based as 
they are on actions the children see adults performing in their 
environment, may partially meet their need for dramatic play 



(which sccMiis to be based on copying what they see about them).* 
Second, children in onr culture tend to have more opportunities for 
self-expressive play t!iau for activities that develop their knowledge 
of the outer world. Therefore, given a choice, they tend to choose 
the latter. 

In this chapter, 1 have discussed the role of the Montessori 
materials in some detail: their primary role as an indirect prepara- 
tion for ego functions and the differentiation of the child's 
intelligence; the position they hold in its developing social life; and 
their relationship to its need.s both for self-expression, as in fantasy 
play, and for self-realization based on contact with outer reality. 
The role of the materials has been misunderstood by both admirers 
and critics, but it need not be. If one understands Montessori's 
basic approach to education as an aid to life, the role of the 
materials falls logically into place. They are, quite simply. :»k1s to 
the child in its self-construction. 


I . Montess()ri*s appreciation of clr;niui in general is often forgotten. For 
very young children, she suggested such activities as extemporaneous acting 
inspired by a beginning sentence such :is "Maria went to the window and 
cried,...** The older children in Montessori schools write imd produce 
original plays. . In some classrooms tlie afternoons arc devoted almost 
exclusively to various kinds of artistic expression, including plays. The 
latter are often f)ased on history or hterature. For example, an original play 
may he put on depicting a historical period or event, with autlientic 
costumes, pi ops, and scenery. One school I \ isitcd (the Montessori School 
of Northern Virginia, 6820 Pacific I^nc, Annandale, Virginia 22003) had 
been to a production of Shakespeare a few weeks earlier, and one of the 
cliildren had asked to sec the slides the teacher had taken during the 
performance. While tlie slides were being shown, several children spon- 
taneously spoke the lines from the scenes being depicted. The play was 
Midsummer Nights DTeam, and tlie entertainment superb as one nine-, 
year-old boy in particular raised his voice to lake the leading female role, 
acting the part to perfection. 



Since the Moiitcssori method grew out of ii scientific investigation, 
it seems appropriate to examine wliether this method meets tlic 
demands tliat modern science, and psychology in particnlar, make 
on ed neat ion. To d(j this, it is necessary to reconnt Montessori*s 
view of man and tlie principles on which the rest of her work is 
ha.sed so that they can he compared with the findings of modern 

Of conrse, the term "modern ])sych()log\'* implies a nnity of 
outlook that docs not in fact exist. A certain amonnt of disimity, 
theoretical controversy, and mutual negativ e criticism has naturally 
resulted from the great expansion and progress that this young 
scioiee lias experienced within a short time. I^'urtherniore, it is still 
far from reaching its final goal. Perhaps one reason for this is the 
fact that it*^ object of study— liuuKni behavior— is so very complex. 
It is certainly more difficult for us to penetrate than something 
with which we are less directh' involved. In spite of this, and 
notwithstanding the contradictory opinions held by individual 
psychologists, there is sufficient essential agrcen»ent on certain 
points for a general view of man to be outlined. Some of its 
fundamental characteristics are as follows: 

• Man is, abcnc nil, a social being, That is, he is dependent on his 
social environment not only for his physical survival but for his 



psycllic iiiul sjjiritual development. Of all living creatures, lie 
alone possesses language. Language is not the product and 
possession of an individual, hut of society. 

• Cultural heritages, which are inconceivahle without society, give 
content and form to lunnan existence; they indicate paths by 
which man can fulfill his particular destiny. Since this destiny is 
interpreted differently from culture to culture, human beings 
need each other to realize, collectively, the possibilities of 
hanianity. The great human values, such as faith, justice, beauty, 
and truth, are created and supported by the community. Within 
it they have general validity as aims indissolubly related to human 
talent. They have a suprapersonal, supraindividual nature, and 
cannot, therefore, be understood or explained by looking at the 

• The individual is only potentially lunnan. He is, as it were, a 
promise that can only be fulfilled by society. He is different, 
therefore, from an animal, wliich reaches the limits of its 
develoj)ment soon after birth and may then be considered 

• The continuity in human history is a cultural continuity, whereas 
the continuity in the animal world is in principle biological. The 
fundamental psychosomatic unity is another principle that comes 
strongly to the fore in contemporary psychology, 

• Nhni finds in his organism the source of his own activity. 7*liis he 
directs toward his environment, either strivingly or resistently, 
through his behavior. 

Behavior is the term used to describe the meaningful activity by 
which man enters into a relationship with his environment. Since 
he has alternatives in this regard, lunnan behavior is the physical 
manifestation of a choice. 

Man's behavior is only partially determined by the laws of nature. 
Insofar as he has alternatives, he must make choices. He possesses 
the widest range of possible choices of all living beings because he 
is capable of creating alternatives that do not, as such, exist in 
nature. On the other hand, an alternative that was originally 
present may be lost, and then a pure automatism conies into 
funetioiK Therefore all addiction and rigidity is, in a sense, a 
deficiency when measured by the yardstick of human possibilities. 


Montessori Education and Modem Psychology 


• fieluivior is always in reference to something and has meaning, 
llie setting of and striving after aims is a fiuidaniental aspect of 
hnnian existence. Even before a child can speak, or for that 
matter before anyone can explain to it what an aim is, it already 
has aims. Bccanse man experiences liini.self a.s the sonrce of 
activity, lie is also aware of intentionality. He has this awareness 
at an early age. 

• Modern psychology begins with the conviction that lunnan 
behavior is not purely accidental, but is determined by something. 
In other words, it occurs in a context of determinants. 

• H\c totality of relationships from which man determines his 
behavior is called a situation. Man constantly finds himself in 
situations. As his development progresses, these situations become 
richer, and consequently his behavior becomes more differenti- 
ated. However, tin's differentiation varies from person to person 
according to the individuaKs interests, abilities, and circum- 

How does this brief outline of man as lie is presented to us in 
psychological literature today compare with the view of man Maria 
Montessori presents to us? Montessori held the following beliefs: 

• Man appeared on the evolutionary scene as a new being. In spite 
of his biological resemblance to the higher animals, he is 
fundamentally different from theiii. T'his difference is not one of 
overall superiority. Man as an individual is weaker than many 
animals, and certainly weaker tluni those animal species presumed 
to have inhabited the earth when he first made his appearance. It 
is said that his weapon is intelligence. However, the intelligence 
of the individual means little when he lives in isolation. 

• In animals, the ability to adapt is limited. Their consciousness is 
confined to their needs and the striving to satisfy theiii. They live 
in bondage to hereditary patterns of behavior from which they 
can deviate only slightly and then only in special circumstances. 
.\hm is different. lie is far more flexible. Me too posse.sses certain 
instincts, but they are less structured than those of animals and 
they do not determine the patterns of behavior that give form 
and content to his existence. He must construct these patterns 
himself, and he can only do this in assocatioii with his fellow men. 



Man ciiiinot 1)C' uiiclcrstoocl as an individnal. It is only in a 
conununity tliat he l)cconic.s Innnan and tliat liis potcMitialitics 
can lie rca-ii/xxl. 

Tlie animal biosphere has an organization that appears to be 
more or less static. Man has called into existence a psychospherc 
that is dynamic and changeable. Since his behavior is not 
determined hereditarily, he seeks self realizatioii. In tlie conrse of 
this search, lie has learned to change his natnral environment and 
has made discoveries that have gradually brought about the 
present state of civilization. What is generally referred to as our 
social cnvironnient-a milieu that in the course of history 
acquired its present form-is no longer natural, but is a su- 
pranatural creation. 

Work is inherent in human existence. Most people, therefore, 
work, and many discover new things; but individnal discoveries 
oidv become valuable when they are accepted and applied by a 
larger group. 

However convinced someone may be tliat he is working only for 
himself, he is in fact working for the comnuniity; and only the 
results of this coninumal activity, which we call civilization, show 
continuity and progress. 

'Hie link that makes this continuity possible is the child, with its 
specific potentialities. 

People do not unite by holding onto one another. 1'heir hands 
nmst be free for the activity by which the individual tries to 
realize his own destiny. He does this independently, in accordance 
with his personal capacities and po.ssibilities. 
The bond between human beings is their common intelligence, 
and language is the vehicle that makes the abstract intelligence of 
a connnunity possible. It is only as a member of a group that the 
individual can accomplish his task as a human being. Yet man's 
existence within the group nuist also be safeguarded by agreement 
on the general rules of conduct, since patterns of behavior are not 
determined by natural laws. 
• llie higher values generally accepted by a connnunity constitute 
the spiritual pole according to which the individual directs his 
striving toward self-realization and, in doing so, constantly 
sacrifices some of his self-interest. Their content and interpreta- 


Montessori Education and Modern Psychology 


tioii vary from culture to culture and also among the various 
groups within a greater coninuniity. But the need for religion and 
for norms is an essential characteristic of human nature. 
• The conglomerate of spiritual and material values which we term 
civilization and which determines the cultural climate of a 
conuuunity is no static entity. It is constantly being added to and 
revised. The dominating patterns in it change and evolve in the 
course of time, affecting nian\s behavior. 

^riie parallels between the two views of man presented here— 
that of Montessori and modern psychology— are certainly striking. 
Mer persona] contribution is her identification of children as the 
hnk tliat guarantees the continuity of human evolution, which is a 
cultural evolution. Because of their close emotional bond with 
t)iose into whose care they are given, children turn, with their 
special sensibilities and potentialities, to adults. From them, they 
unconsciously absorb the fundamental patterns on which they base 
their personal behavior during their childhood. Their minds absorb 
and digest impressions of the social environment as they travel the 
road toward their own destiny in society. 

A convincing example of the child's capabilities in this area is 
provided by Marie- Yvonne Vellard, a child of the Guayaki Indians, 
a South American tribe living a hidden, nomadic existence on the 
Stone Age level. In 1932 she was abandoned in the forest by two 
women of the tribe when they were surprised by members of an 
expedition led by Dr. Jean Albert Vellard, director of the French 
Institute of Indian Studies at Lima. She was adopted, and 
subsequently raised, by Dr.. Vellard and has become an educated 
woman who speaks several languages and who, apart from her 
appearance, does not differ from the Latin American friends with 
whom she shared her upbringing. During a UNESCO conference in 
Paris on racial problems, her ease was quoted as evidence that all 
nlen are equal at birth J It took our ancestors two hundred 
centuries to go from the Stone Age to the Atomic Age. Hiis girl did 
it in one leap. An adult member of her tribe, even the most 
intelHgent, would not have been able to adapt to the modern world 
in this way. Some indication of what might have been achieved can 
be found in a touching human document relating the brief 




encounter witli twcntietli-ceiitiiry civilization of Islii, tlie bst 
snrvivor of :i California Indian tribe. lie emerged from tlie Stone 
Age into the modern world in 1911, and although intelligent and 
sensitive, his cultural being remained unehanged.- Only children 
possess the spiritual ability (the absorbent mind) necessary for the 
formation of the future num. 

So far we have examined only Montessori's global view of man, 
and the principles on which'she based her method. .Although this 
view is in accordance with modern psychology, it does not follow 
that its practical applications are. A brief sunnnary of Montessori*s 
reasoning and tiiat of psychology will indicate whether, in fact, they 
are. An analysis of the N'arious trends and schools in psychology 
shows that there is agreement on several fundamental points, wliieh 
consequently may be considered representative of modern 

• A psychic event only acquires meaning when it is related to a 
higher totality, in the final analysis, to the perscmality as a wIkjIc. 

• The relevant organizing principle is not the law, but the type. 
The total individual shoidd be studied and his psychological 
structure comjxired with the psychological structures of other 
individuals so that its type can he determined. 

•The organic totality of personality is directed toward the 
realization of certain aims and values. It is important to 
understand the internal striving of psychic life toward aims and to 
consider psychic activity from the viewpoint of finality, 

• Phenomena and functions ha\*e incaning in the life of the 
inchvidual, who is not a passive mechanism, but an active, stri\'ing 

• The meaning of a phenomenon caniujt be understood from 
studying the unrelated process alone, but only from examining 
the meaningful whole of which it forms a part, 

• Man is a spiritual being and strives for certain cultural values. 

• All psychological processes are related to the subject, which is 
active. The ego is the center that gives direction to these 
psychological processes. 

• Not only the content of experience but the action function of the 
ego comes to the fore. 


Montessori Education and Modem Psychology 41 

• Man's emotional and volitioiial life is important, as is his social 

• ^rhe psychosomatic unity of man is fundamental. 

• Behavior is the physical manifestation of a choice. It springs from 
an alternative. 

Let us now consider a few principles of Montessori education: 

• Education must help the child develop its personality in accor- 
dance with its nature and possibilities, and at its own rate, so that 
later it can fulfill its task as an independent, balanced human 
being in the adult community. The aim, therefore, is always the 
formation of the total personality, not of independent functions 
or processes. 

• Optimal relationsliips between children and adults and an opti- 
mal environment stimulate and give positive support to this 
spontaneous inner development. When it occurs, a change takes 
place in the child called normalization. 

• Children want to become adults and, prompted by their inner 
needs, strive to achieve this goal independently. Education must 
assist them in this task of inner development. In order to offer 
them adequate help, it is necessary to understand their psychic 
activity from the point of view of this final aim. 

• Many activities of small children appear meaningless. However, 
the concentration with which they devote themselves to these 
activities makes it evident that they are important to them. 
When children are engaged in such activities, the Montessori 
teacher must withdraw and allow them to proceed without 
interruption. Much of the Montessori developmental material 
has been been constructed to further this kind of indirect 
preparation for functions that will only lb ter become manifest. 

• Only when this happens can the meaning of a single phenomenon 
be grasped or interpreted in its correct context. 71ierefore, in 
Montessori education the self-directed activity of the child is 
respected. Any attempts to penetrate into the secret of childhood 
are made through its spontaneous manifestations. Montessori 
teachers are trained to observe the child and to report on their 
observations. In this way. the behavior of the child can be studied 




ill tiic iiieaiiiiigfiil context of the whole personality acting in the 
pedagogical situation. 

• Tlic school must be a cultural environment, so that children have 
the opportunity to become faniiliiir with the basic aspects of their 
own culture. During the first years of life the child's absorbent 
mind enables it to incorporate the fundamental patterns of 
culture it has come in contact with through association with 
adults. It then proceeds to give tlieni form and content in a 
personal way. Schools nuist offer children this possibility for a 
cultural environment and enlarge their cultural horizon in such a 
way that not only intellectual, but also spiritual development 
occurs. I'lie spirit a.ii core of man is alread\ present in children. It 
directs their psychic development from within In means of special 
sensitivities and needs that, if given the opportunity, spur the 
conscious ego of the child to specific activities. 

• The Mo)itessori material is constructed to appeal to these inner 
needs. In addition, it offers children the opportunity to \v(5rk 
indepeudenth' and to have their own experiences with it. Since 
handling it demands the coordination of different functions, the 
entire personality is involved. However, one single propert\' is 
accentuated in each subdivision of the material. A child is thus 
invited to direct its attention to a special objective quality. The 
latter is so chosen that it is attuned to a specific psychic activity 
and requires, at the same time, specific actions for the manipula- 
tion of the material. 'I'he material itself makes the child aware 
when something has not been done correctly. Its intelligence is 
then challenged to find a better solution. In this way the ego 
functions are differentiated, trained, and integrated without 
strain, more or less playfully, while the child is sti undated to 
perform meaningful acts. 

• This i\s possible because the material takes into account the inner 

c'ds n^f the child in the course of its devclopnicnt. It therefore 
has am iiiwiting character and an emotional appeal. It arouses the 
Autrrcsl off the child and stimulates it to activity as well as to 
coiicentrabion. The motto of Montessori education, derived from 
the utterujiice of a toddler ("Help me to do it myself"), nnplies an 
ackiHJvvledignient of the child as a striving being with its own aims 
and needs. 'I he latter are also indicated by what^we call sensitive 


Montessori Education and Modern Psychology 


• Social (Icvclopiiicnt. clc;ilt with in Chapter 2. is one of tlic 
fundamental characteristics of Montessori education. 

• As far as teaching was concerned. Montessori believed that the 
emphasis oti the intellectual aspect of learning was largely wrong. 
The role of the personality as a psychosomatic unity in the 
h;arning process nuist he fully acknowledged. No passive absorp- 
tion, hut intelligent action is required. L.eiu iiing is a dvnamic 
process in which the whole personality of the child must be 
actively engaged. The Montessori material itivites this. 7'he 
coordination of niovenients. the self-activity, and ibe freedom of 
movenient in the classroom characteristic of Montessori educa- 
tion arc also applications of this principle. 

• In conclusion, it may be mentioned that a free choice of activity, 
which confronts the child with alternatives and which therefore 
teaches it to beconie independent, is a Montessori principle par 
excellence. The formal, classical approach to education excludes, 
by definition, the possibility of taking this fundamental aspect of 
man's existence into account, imposing the same task on an entire 
group degrades an alternative to a necessity. 

It is clear from this brief statement of tlie principles followed in 
applying the Montessori method that they arc consistent with the 
principles of modern psyehology. Let us now examine the scientific 
method employed in .Montessori schools to see how it relates to 
other methods employed in modern psychology. Method is the 
most important characteristic of all science. The only difference 
between an unscientific opinion and a scientific judgment is that 
the latter is based on method. Having a method is essentially no 
more than working in a systematic way. It is a kind of discipline, or 
self-control, that consists of constantly querying whether and how 
far that which one asserts is really based on experience or supported 
by it. Kxperimentation is no doubt the most ideal method of 
investigation in the empirical sciences. Its advantages are not 
exceeded by those of any other method. Laboratory experimenta- 
tion, however, has practical limitations. 7*hat is \sh\' wa>s are sought 
to retain the advantages of the experiniental method in the 
.systematic stndy of phenomena which c;nmot be studied in the 
laborator\ . One of the niost important ways of doing this is through 
field experiments, where the field is a normal environment, for 
example, a school. Kven closer to everyday experience is so-called 



actioii-rescarcli in wliicli a coiiuminity (such as a scliool) cooperates 
with experts in tlie rescarcli program. Tlicse experts not only 
investigate existing conditions, but seek to improve tliem. Such 
researcli tlierefore lias a normative character. Another n^.ethod of 
investigation outside of the laboratory is to make the observer or 
researcher a member of the group under observation. 1*he use of 
this method in psychoanalysis and in Montessori education was 
discussed in Chapter 1. Flowever, making and recording observa- 
tions, it should be remembered, is a very difficult task for most 
people. If teachers are required to do this, it is important to give 
considerable attention to such matters iu their training. Otherwise, 
the danger of mechanization and rigidity will be great. It is 
precisely because a scientific attitude requiring constant observa- 
tion is important that the Montessori method makes great de- 
mands on teachers wishing to apply it. All the scientific methods 
described above are compatible with Montessori education, al- 
though there will be differences in the Way they are applied in 
practice. . 

If we view the relationship between Montessori education and 
modern p.sychology as a whole, the following can be observed: Until 
World War II, applied psychology was predominantly laboratory 
psychology. Montessori education, which is based on an empirical 
experiment with children in concrete life situations, could do very 
little with it. As I have mentioned, M;iria Montessori herself was so 
struck by and involved in what she crdled the discovery of the child 
that slie never felt the need to build up a theoretical .system. It was 
not theories that were important to her. but the child itself. The 
revelations of its spontaneous behavior touched her so profoundly 
tliat she devoted the rest of her life to acting on its behalf. Indeed 
.she referred to herself as an "ambassadress for the cause of the 

Since World War II psychology has developed rapidly, and 
there has been a growing interest in the concrete behavior of man 
in ordinar>', everyday situations. Because of this, the divergence 
between Montessori education and psychology has decreased, and a 
possibility of bridging tlie gap between them may well exist. I hope 
that the thoughts presented here will be a spur to efforts in this 


Klontessori Education and Modern Psychology 



1. From a report in tlic cbily pjpcr De Dordtenaar (August 12, 1950), 
p. 5. Requests for more details of this case from UNESCO and N'elbrd 
have renuiucd unanswered. 

2. See Theodora Kroeber. ISHl in Two Worlds (Berkeley and l.os 
Angeles: University of California Press, 1962). 



All ciiclcavor to assess tlic psycliological value of work in scliool 
necessitates a siiiiiinary of botli the psychological significance of 
Maria Moiiiessori's contribution to human knowledge and work as 
a human phenomenon. These two main issues must in turn be 
related to the educational situation, ft will then be possible to 
evaluate work within the school setting and, at the same time, to 
estimate the psychological merits of the Montessori approach and 
traditional education as it is practiced tod a v. 

The driving force giving impetus aijd direction to Montessori s 
thinking was a truly profound vision of man and his position in the 
world. This vision was based oi^ her convictioi; that wlien man 
appeared in the world a new species came into being. She called for 
a new begimiing in the study of child development based on tin's 
coinictio!!. ft vvar her anthropological orientation that eventually 
resul*;:'d in her **.J!scovery" of the child. 1*liis discovery consisted of 
a rcali^arion of the specific function of the child in the formation 
of man is me link between generations in numkind s cultural 
evoluJious. The behavior patterns typical of the human species are 
iH)t hereditary— only the abilities to form them are. Man reaches 
maturity only in his postnatal state, when he is already exposed to 
ciivircniiieiital influences. 7*he continuation of the embryonic 
process that occurs after birtij is of h psychological order because it 
requires the active participation of the individual involved. The 





child has special powers that facilitate self-coiistriictioii: an absor- 
bent mind and sensitive periods. Bnt it needs the help of adnlts. 
Education has a fundamental role in the formation of man, and its 
foremost aim should be to oflFer adequate aid and stinuilatiou to 
the intricate process of inner construction. 

Of course, we all realize that whatever we are now, whatever we 
can do, is the result of a previous period of development, and a 
process of learning influenced by the education we have received. 
Montessori, liowever, believed that a lack of education would not 
merely restrict our- capabilities as adults bu?- would, if extreme 
enough, preclude the possibility of even becoming human beings. 
Let us, for example, imagine a healthy normal baby separated from 
its mother at birth and brought up with the best of foods in an air- 
conditioned, soundproof space with sufficicfit light and all other 
material conditions mechaniciilly regulated in an optimal way but 
empty of further objects and human contacts. If such a being 
remained alive through puberty, which in itself would be extremely 
unlikely, it Would not be a human being but merely a creature 
resembling a human being. It would not be a question of its simply 
having lost fifteen years of tutoring that it would have to make up. 
It would actually possess none of the attributes we consider 
essentially human and of which we are so proud. If such a luckless 
creature were admitted to society at maturity, it would not be able 
to recover the ground it had lost. It would remain a misfit, however 
long it might be kept alive, in spite of being given whatever it had 
been deprived of during its isolation. It would, of course, be too 
cruel to prove this by an experiment. Mumamty is often cruel, 
however, and there have been instances where children who were 
deprived in one way or another lost forever certain faculties 
inherent in human beings. A well-known historical example is Dr. 
Jean Itard's account of the '^'sauvage de V Aveyron,*' a wolf child 
found in the woods shortly after the French Revolution. The 
description of Dr. Itard's experiences with this child interested and 
inspired iMontessori long before she started her pedagogical work. 

Let us now consider work as a human phenomenon. In one of 
his relatively rare discussions of work, Freud remarks, *'After primal 
man had discovered tnat it lay in his own hands, literally, to 
improve his lot on earth by working, it cannot have been a matter 


The Psychological Value of Work in School 


of indifference to liim whether another man worked with hiiii or 
against hiin. The other iiian aeqnirecl the vahie for hiin of a fellow 
worker, with whom it was nseful to live togethcr."VI should like to 
add "and to achieve peaeefiil coexistence and collaboration he 
invented a language to communicate with him." In the quotation 
above, which one could easily believe to have come from Mon- 
tes-sori's writings. I'Veud defines the essence of work as a human 
phenomenon. What he actually tells us is that man has a purpose 
in life. This is to improve his lot, which necessitates an 
intrinsic relation between him and his environment. It also brings- 
him to discover that it is only through his own activity, namely by 
using his intelligence and its tools, the hands, that he can change 
his en\iroumeiit. Work is a fundamental feature of the human 
being as a species, and an adaptive, creative, and social function par 
excellence. Although its nK*aning. social role, and specific objectives 
have changed throughout the centuries and have differed from one 
connnunity to another, it. has always maintained its position as one 
of the main spheres of human beh.avior. 

It is curious that relatively little has been written about work as 
a human phenomenon. Kven in modern studies on the subject, the 
ability to work, which may well be called a major human 
phenomenon, ha,s received little attention. It has cxKlently been 
taken for granted. Psychologists have given much attention to the 
problem of work, and there is a vast literature on the subject, but 
niost of it concerns secondary aspects of the problem. It does not 
answer the question of why people work at all, or why they fail to 
do so. Learning theory, which pretends to give an answer, does so 
only in terms of conditioning. In reality, this is only one aspect of a 
very complex phenomenon. It is also the less human one, for it 
deals with that which man has in common, on the one hand, with 
animals and. on the other, with machines. Its lailure to explain 
adequately some of the crucial phenomena in humans has finally 
engendered a promising reaction in the direction of a rehumaniza- 
tion of psychology. 

The contribution of Professor Walter S. Neff of New York 
University to an understanding of work and human behavior is of 
special interest.- His comprehensive approach coincides in principle 
with that of Montes.sori. As a clinical psychologist, he has worked 




closely for a miinbcr of years with people for whom work is a major 
difficnlty. Drawing on this experience, he has nndcrtaken to stndy 
work as a lunnan phencnnenon from all relevant angles. He has 
focnsed on the ability to work in its own right and also in relation 
to the general problems of the human personality, lie sees it, 
therefore, in its trne complexity. His definition of work coincides 
with the views expressed above in connection with Frend's remarks, 
i'he latter, however, are in regard to work by adnlts, not the ability 
to work as snch, nor how it develops. NefT endeavors to investigate 
this process. Me sees the ability to work as an as|)ect of the 
development of the personality, with which it is interrelated, 
althongh it is eventually differentiated into a relatively antonomons 
sphere of behavior, lie does not see it as limited to particular 
aptitudes and skills, but as adaptive and hence transactional. Ife 
thereby acknowledges the different stages of developnient. 

NefT suggests that the cr)nditions for becoming a worker '*may 
be certain necessary kinds of experiences in early and middle 
childhood." This is interesting in connection with Montessori's 
sensitive periods. (American psychologists refer to "critical pe- 
riods.") However. NefT's insight is not sufficient for him to over- 
come certain ingrained prejudices, ft works to s(niie extent with 
regard to emotional influences, but there it stops. 

In summari/ing the components of what he calls the work 
|)ersonalit\ , Neff states three couclusicms: I'irst, the general source 
of the will to work is the precepts of society. The fact that society 
expects an iu(hvidual to play a productive role determines his 
behavior, not inner promptings at various stages of development. 
Second, the critical periods for the formation of the work per.sou- 
ality are middle childhood and adolescence, 'i'hird, the compulsion 
to work is initially entirely external to the organism, hut it becomes 
internalized to varying degrees and in different forms. 

in enunciating these conclusions. Professor Neff tdtally aban- 
dons- his original goal, which was to study the meaning of work in 
general and to focus on the ability to work in light of the 
developmental process. In making the three points above, he has in 
mind a special form of work: that of the adult. He has evidently 
looked for the earliest period iu childhood when such work occurs, 
which is, of course, when the child goes to school for formal 


The Psychological Value of Work in School 


iiistructior. at approxiiiiately six years of age. Tlius lie sees this as 
tlie first of tlie critical periods relevant tr work. However, the 
behavior pattern of ehilclren at tlii.s stage results from an integration 
of experiences related to critical periods in previous stages, dnring 
which their ahility to work was developed to the extent of 
pernvitting them to attend school. If the conipnision to work is 
initially entirely external to the organism, what is the significance of 
Neff's first eritical period? Perhaps bv then children have been 
sufficiently manipulated and indoctrinated by adults, that they 
conform to the precepts of society without protest! In his 
iiitrodiictioii, Neff writes. "One of our major concerns will be to 
consider the manner in xyliidi a non-working child becomes a 
working adult/* Apparently, this transformation is to be achieved 
by molding it from the outside. W'e are back to the age-old 
prejudice of adults who think that because a child functions in a 
different way it is void of the qualities one encounters in adults. In 
actual fact, the child is building these quahties within itself, but in 
its own w ay. 

The concept of de\elopinent is inconceivable without a goal. 
There must be something in a developing being to guide the 
process from within. Everything that manifests itself as new in that 
long-range process must be the result of a period of nidirect 
preparation. If that preparation process is a type of adaptation, 
which must not be confused with either adjustment or coiiforiiiisiii. 
then there must be soiiietliiiig that drives ^hc child to shape its own 
behavior patterns to harmonize u ith its environment. Otherwise it 
would be like a circus animal being drilled to perform in a way that 
was alien to it. Bebaviorists may believe that this is the case, but I 
do not. This kind of view, wliicli is dominant in traditional 
education, precludes the development of the kind of flexible work 
l)eh a\ior that is needed in the world todav. 

Before psychoanalysis, it was believed tiiat because the sexual 
function in the adult form had its onset at puberty, infant sexuality 
did not exist. Neff has adopted the same attitude in regard to work. 
In reality its roots must be looked for in the very first crucial 
formative period of the spiritual embryo. Some time ago, I was at a 
wedding reception. The bridegroom's sister was helpi!\g to receive 
guests, so she let her husband babysit with their oiie-aiuha-half-year- 




old boy. Tlic fatlicr took up a position witli his l)ack to one of those 
stray tallies wlicrc tlic food offered remains nearly untouched. As 
his little hoy was at tlic'age when huniaus grab and examine 
whatever they can lay their hands on. his father kept him on his 
arm so that he could not reach the objects on tiic table. From time 
to time, the father gave the boy a cookie, but instead of eating it 
himself, the child enjoyed pushing it in his father's mouth- As I do 
not much like receptions and am always fascinated by the 
spontaneous reactions of yonng children. 1 parked myself behind 
the father's back, facing the child and holding a pretzel stick in my 
mouth like a cigarette. I wanted to sec whether the child would do 
the same thing with me as he had with his father. He looked, with 
an intent, inquiring expression, first at my eyes, then at the stick in 
my mouth, then again at my eyes. He hesitated as if he were 
considering whether I was a friend or foe. Finally, the temptation 
became irresistible. \'ery carefully, he stuck out his right index 
finger and. with the precision of a scientist working in a laboratory, 
he slowly brought his arm forward until the tip of his outstretched 
finger contacted the end of the pretzel and gently pushed the stick 
inside my month. His eyes watched me carefully to see when the 
pretzel completely disappeared. When it was gone, 1 took a new 
one and the child began the whole perforniance again, but now 
without any hesitancy, fully engrossed in what it was doing. When 
there were not too many sticks left. 1 let the same one reappear. 
The child eontinued to repeat his pushing action with enormous 
concentration until all of a sudden, he grabbed the stick out of my 
mouth and ate it with a beannng face. The cycle of activity was 
completed. hVom a hygienic ])oint of view, it was most deplorable, 
of course, but as a manifestation of a hnmau being in the act of 
building within himself the ability to work, it was-to) precious to 
stop. , 

What a perfect coordination of intelligence, perception, and 
movement, and what an intensity of absorption was demonstrated 
in what to Neff would have been a senseless little game, 'rrnc, the 
activity Jjad no a])parent purpose; it was performed for its own sake, 
and it was thus play according to his definitions of work and play. 
Hut it did have an unconscious purpose. It was not directed toward 
mastering the outer environment, but toward the construction of 

The Psychological Viilue of Work in School 5^ 

wliiit Montcssori called "tlic organs of tlic i nil id." Tliesc mental 
organs are formed by tins kind of ii; tens ct ion l)et\veen the inner and 
enter world, tlie motivation for wliieli conies from witliin. 'I liis 
nioti\iiti()ii manifests itself tlirough tlie sensitive jjeriods. However, 
even after tlieir coiicliisi(Jii. tlic nrge to learn, to form one's own 
personality, adajjtcd to hot^* one's individnal potentialities and the 
conditions of one's environment (and hence the ability to work), 
accoinpanies the growing individual thronglioiit the whole lengthy 
period of youth. Sj)ecific sensitive periods end when the\ have 
performed their function or when the inaturational iiiiiit.s within 
which they can occur have been passed. I)ut the intensive attraction 
to the eiivironment, the love for it. remains a basic attitnde of the 
growing individual. At least, it does if it is not inhibited or 
repressed j)y inner anxieties or b\ restrictive' measures or taboos 
iiiiposeci by adults. 

lulucatioii should take this into consideration and use it as a 
guide ill structuring the pedagogical' situation. W'e have discussed 
the fact that the task of educators is to help growing liunian beings 
to de\'elop. They can do so by offering children an environment 
that stimulates their inner j)otentialities at difiPerent stages of 
de\cluiDnieiit. The psvchological value of work in school depends 
on wlicther we succeed in doing this when we decide how to 
organi/e a school: wliat to include in the curriculnm and which 
n»ethod of instruction \kv should follow. The children themselves 
should serve as our giiide. Our success is determined b> their 
responses. If thvy work with concentration and pleasure, then we 
Ikjvc found the link with that iimer force which directs their 
development. If their spirit (a forbidden word in psychology!) is not 
touched, thev may coinjjly with our demands for work; but the 
psychological value of their work will be restricted to a more or less 
mechanical learning of techniques, ^fliis process does not iiuolve 
the total personality, and consequently has little formative value. 

'i o illustrate this point, i sometimes use the case of a male 
patient, twenty-cighl years old, who came to me for psycho.Kri:.! tic 
treatment. Me coinplaiijcd of anxiety, crying bouts. depressi .MY :v',d 
an inability to work. He had not worked since leaving sec'^^.l :ry 
school. His first Ijreakdowii took phice at college. It was followed by 
similar crises every tiiric he tried a new occupation. At last he gave 




up all attempts at working; and began living a solitary, inactive life 
in an attic. He had lost his father, whom he was very fond of, wlien 
he was three years old. This death was followed by a sequence of 
traumatic events, including a move to a different country and a 
change in the family's social status that disrupted his rather 
paradisical world drastically. He tried to save himself from this 
emotional wreckage by warding off reality, taking refuge in a 
fantasy world. Mis attitude toward the outer world was one of 
passive conforinism. which actually covered up deep feelings of 
rancor and superiority. 

At the age of four, he was sent to a Montessori infant school, 
where he felt completely at a loss. The freedom especially terrified 
him. By allowing him independence and holding him responsible 
for his own actions, the school challenged him to leave the security 
oi' his self-made prison. His mode of existence was jeopardized, and 
he felt paralyzed. He was then moved to a Dalton school where he 
was given specific tasks and told more or less how long he was 
supposed to work at them. The rest of the time he could work hy 
himself, uiiless he w ished to ask something. He managed to avoid 
doing that as he was intelligent and did not need assistance. Me did 
not mix with thr other pupils, but he appeared happy to be left in 
peace. Me |)rovt to he i; brilliant pupil throughout both elemen- 
tary and high school, airl his high marks indicated that he would 
have an easy time at college. Instead, he collapsed there. 

Of course, he had always remained difficult at home, leading a 
solitary life in his rcmni. Me considered his sehoolwork a tedious 
dut\ which he had to perform in order to keep exigent adults off his 
back and be free to withdraw into an imaginary world where he 
found solace for his wounded ego in fantasies of grandeur. 
However, as long as his work at school was satisfactory, things went 
reasonably uell. lie passed for a normal boy. although he was not. 
It took seven years of analysis to restore his grip un realitv and 
enable him to find a meaning in life again. 

The case of this patient was not very unusual. A number of 
students sent to uu: by their university health care department for 
counseling had very sinular histories. 1 hey had achieved apparent 
social adjustment hy complying dutifully with the reqr.irement.s of 
the .school's curriculum, without, liowever, taking part in school life 


The Psychological Value of Work in School 


proper, and tlicy liad dccp-scatcd emotional problcMns that went 
unnoticed. Wliat is tlie psycliological valne of work in scliool in 
these cases? Clearly, it is as a defense. Normal development has 
stagnated at some stage, partly inhibiting the process of adaptation. 
This nenrosis, however, has not affected the ability to work, 
because of the relative autonomy of this sphere of behavior. The 
work demanded by schools is one-sided, focused only on certain 
aspects of intellectual functioning. Society puts so much value on 
success in this quarter that it permits these individuals, through 
conformity, to build up a fake state of normality. However, when 
they leave the protected and artificial enviromnent of the school 
tliey collapse, like hothouse plants exposed for the first time to the 
hardships of a natural climate. 

It is interesting to note in this connection that the psychological 
importance of education for the formation of num in the different 
stages of development, whether at ,sehool or elsewhere, is in reverse 
proportion to the value usually accorded it b\ society. This is 
reflected clearly in the progressive level of training, M)cial status, 
and renunieration of the educators involved: the domestic person- 
nel caring for infants at home, the workers in child-care centers, the 
teachers in preprimary, elementary, and secondary schools, and 
finally, imivcrsity professors at the top of the academic tree. 'Hiauks 
to the ever-growing speciali/ation and mechamzatiou of instruc- 
tion, the latter really contribiitc very little to the formation of the 
student's personality, and their role in this connection is on the 

l,et us now consider how the educational process resulting fiom 
the Montessnri approach coincides with pediigogieal psychology, fn 
a historical survey of t!ie development of pedagogical psychology. 
Professor Max 1 iiliebraiid stresses the necessity of an anthropologi- 
cal orientation in both pedagogy and psychology for a fundnnicntal 
understanding of the human being. This is aii acknowledgment of 
the basic thesis that "man as animal educanditm is a being that 
witiiout learning and education cannot become man."-* He points 
out that education cannot work without the concept of dispositions 
(Montessori's potentialities). It aims at them as its result and effect. 
Kducators must find ways to reach the deeper layers of the 
personality, permittmg the dispositions to come into play. Professor 



Hcinricli Roth, in coiidudint; a discussion on problems of ccln- 
aihility, rcuuirks tlut cdi ution nnist ot necessity jppcal to the 
child's growing self-insiijht and auto'jducation. Wluit is most 
important is the reinforcement of tlie child's increasing ability to 
act independently in a responsible way.^ 

This may suffice to show that the Montessori ajjproach to work 
in tlie school corresponds to what is considered basic when 
education is oriented toward the foriiiation of man. Traditional 
education in a classical setting, on the other hand, concerns itself 
too exclusively with the transfer of knowledge, ignoring its respon- 
sibihly with regard to the inner de\ elopiiient of personality. 

Montessori considered tlie ability to work to be an important 
aspect of the inde])ciidencc of the individual throughout life. As 
earlv as adolescence she believed that eeonoinie independence 
based on one's own initiative was essential to a sense of well-being. 
Succeeding by one's own efforts, she felt, and at the same time 
being in contact with the realitv of hfe that work represents, 
euliaiices the personality. This is true all through adult life and into 
old age. It is ntJt the kind of work one devotes oneself to that is of 
most importance, but the principle of work itself. "All work is 
noble," she wrote. '*The only ignoble thing is to live without 
working," Intclleclnal work and nuninal work are conipleineiitary 
and "ccjually essential in a ci\ ilix.ed existence."'* 

A society constructed without an awareness of man's need for 
work would be a hazardous one indetd for niaii's future Ileal tli. 
1 low ever, it is not likely that such a society will eve; he hnilt. It is 
onlv the work that c; ; he done by machines that man may be 
reUevcd <jf. i Ic will stiu have the ahihtv to work, and the inner urge 
to lU) so, if it is not nipped in the bud when he is a child. 

Nhnitessori gave a new orientation to work in school because 
she realized its psychological \ ahie. 1 lopefiilly. a sufficient niiiiiher 
of educators will share this insight, and the responsibility that goes 
with It, so that there will he real and lasting changes in the 
educational approach of the future. 

The Psychological Value of Work in School 



1. Sigmunc! Krciul, CiYilization and Its Disvuntenis, standard cd., vol. 
21 (London: llogarHi Press, 19S^). p. 99. 

2. Sec Walter S. Ncff, Work and Human llehdvicr (New York: 
Atherton Press, 196S). 

3. Mux Josef Ilillebraiid, 'iiegriffsbestiuinnuig i GeschichHiciie 
KiUwicklung dcr Padagogischen Psychologic," Uandbuch der S^sychologie, 
vol. U) (CoHingeiu 1959), p. 46. 

4. llciuridi Roth. '*ProblciM der Biklsanikeit nnd Krziehuugsfahigkeit 
iii dcr Psychologischcu Korschung,'* i!)id.. p. 90. 

5. Maria Nioutcssori, From Childhood to Adolescence (New York: 
Schockcn Books, 197^), p. 10^. 



Wc sliall now consider tlic process of education vvitliin the special 
settint; of tlie school. It should he clear from previous chapters that 
school is only one aspect of the educational process in Montessori's 
thiuknjg. 'I'he Montcssori approach is hased on the r^i olntionary 
idea that education has an indispensable role in the foiniation of 
man. W ithout sonic kind of interaction with a human l^eing 
wiierehy a niiuiMunn of cultural dat:i is transmitted, a newborn 
child cannot complete the basic development necessary to become 
one of its species. This conception determines the ahu and the 
general principles of Moutessori education. 

This aim is to offer adequate aid to tlie development of the 
growing human being. Education starts at birth, and therefore 
coneeuis parents as well as all other adults who take ear^ of a cb\ld 
in tlie different milieus in which it grows, ft should be directed 
toward the future and we shoukl take into account the whoU 
continaum cr! growth in establishing its objtvtive. Also, to be 
scientific, rdi'cation must he based on a theory of development. 

I'hr, l.iKt point, which niay seem self-evident, is in fact little 
undci. stood by educators even today, and is far from being applied 
in any comprehensive way. The only American-made plan to do 
till** that I have come across is one by Professor Helena Miller of 
Dnquesue University.^ I fmd it promising because it is not an 
outcome uf simple theorizing. Rather, it has grown ont of twenty- 




seven years of experience teaeliiiig "students of every age level, 
froni all strata of society, in every ty|)e of school." 

'F'he technicjue used to educate children nnisl l^e one of love, I 
do no' use the word in the se;niniental sense, of course, hut to 
designate that nu)st powerful of all emotions !;y which huuj,ni 
beings are attracted to and rehiie to persoiis and ohjecTs that gratify 
their niost fundament:?! neeJs. Die piychoai.:?Ivtic Ji)proac5< to 
education is haMxl on a shvAln piincip!* aisd reaches sjmiJar 
« ()jKh;.-ions. i^or example: 

(;oocl education follows di-: <{cvclopnicnt of the ci.iM 

Che eniotiona; re)jti(vnshm Aith the ednc;i?or vs the central aspect of 

;d! ethicati^ n. K\.t;, ihiutr t|,.it benefits Deaefits education, 
lliv cliild's cai jci^y to tolerate tcns.oui ca vmly be increased if 
tensions never surpass what the child cin stii ^v- 
Prot^ress froni one phase of dcveh»pinent to the next is optimal wU.-u 
there has been safiicient gr.itification: -.sot too :Mueh, not ^)o 

A good educator siiould Iiave a positive ;ittitiide towards the 
ni.stinctnal hfe of the child, and understand its developmental 

riie good educator oHcrs the cliih! material adapted to ius develop 
nieut anti a\ the uionieiit in time when he is most rcjdv to 

Secrets should he avoided in ediic:ition.- 

The obiect of education is an entity in the process of heconnng 
a human being fulncation should not focus on si)ecial functions, 
faculties, ar skills, hut on the whole personahty. Educational 
planning must be longitudinah taking into account the continuity 
as weli as the discontinuity of different matiirational sequruces. 
A(hdts nmst stinmlate and guide the spontaneous activity of 
^;;ddren by offering tbein an environment that appeals to their urge 
for self^realization. and by discouraging behavior that may block it. 
Respect for a child's personality and trust in its inner potentialities 
are prerequisites to the establislnnent of an adecpiate educational 

'I he dynamic aspect of education stems from a recognition of 
the clnld's relation to the wodd. Its open connnunication with the 


Montcssori and the Process of Education 


world is ;] finulimicntj! factor in its clcvclopiucnt This gives the 
concept of iidiiptutioii a central position in the process of ednca- 
tion. l liere is a two-way dynann.sni involving exploration of and 
iidaptation to the onter world on the one hand, and insight into an 
organization of the inner world on the other. These two aspects of 
edncation are interhnked. and rcsnit from tlie sjjontaneons activity 
of the child in its environment. Adults are the representatives of 
the outer wt)rlil and the most important source of information anci 
guidance for the child. Older children also play an important role in 
this connection. 

The situational aspect of education involves the prepared 
enviroinnent. Man is not born with preestablished behavior pat- 
terns but with the ability to form them during youth, lie does this 
through his personal experiences in iiis interaction with the 
environment. These experiences are internalized, and thus struc- 
ture liis inner world. 

Tlic ego functions, including intelligence, are developed in this 
way. Intellectual growth "depends upon internalizing events into a 
'storage system' tliat corresponds to the environment. It is this 
syste;n that makes possible tiie child's increasing ability to go 
beyond ^•^•e information encountered on a single occasion. He does 
this by making predictions, and extrapolations from his stored 
model of the world."'* Montessori's term for tiiis "storage system" 
is the absorbent mind. 

This is a very important i.ssue, often (hsrcgarded or misun- 
derstood. It is of tiie utmost relevance in deciding what type of 
assistance is the most adequate in connection with intellectual 
growtii. It is a conunon misconception that children, being so 
inexperienced and incapable of dealing with abstractions, should be 
offered an introduction to the world in sections chosen by an adult 
and tnade to size, starting with pieces of their innnediatc enviiron 
nient and progressing h\ ever-expanding circles to more distant aiicl 
complex situations. , ^ 

If this kind of approach is follovsed, young adults, who are 
supposed to be ready to start functicnin;.; .'udepcndently in the 
world, will have a ver) restricted, haphi'i arci, and arbitrary knowl- 
edge of it at their disposal. Unfortunately, this is often the case. 

However, this presumed model of education does i:ot corre- 


i:i)llC:,VI!()N I'OR HUMAN I>K\ |:L0P.\!KN'I 

spDiul willi llic actual way iji which childrcu can he of>scrvccl to 
accjuirc knowledge. \'oung cliihiren learu a mass of things uithont 
any jja-ticular form of teaching l^y the age at three or fonr, they 
liave aircatly forme<! the hasie ])afterns o? their ])ersona!itv 'I ;jc> 
arc therefore pre])ared to take m j.'i^jjor >te|) toward further 
independence by entering a new miheu, that of school. Nobody 
lias, up tO this point, sejjarated and reduect! sections c^f the world 
for them K) digest. They have been confronk-d from an r*ady age 
with the wc.Tid at large rnd tl'icir "storage .s/st;ms" arc well stocked, 
W'liat I'.iCv 'nter,'-.'li/e at aiiy given tinw/ is never entirely iicw„ 
There h-u m n a j^rcvious interna! aud indreel preparation foi" it. 

'I'hc cho;. of wU-At is internalized and Hic tliffcrent activities 
involved arc (hlcrmincd by a clnld fro'<. within. Nobody would 
know Ikow to teach it lai;f^uage, for example. How could ajiyone 
s)unv it how to select, ont of all tb-, sounds m its "aviroinnent, 
those of language, or hinv to exercise the organs of sjK'cch and 
reproduce sounds in order to express itself, 'Hie child docs this, and 
indeed much more, on its own. This is why it nnist be offered what 
is necessary or useful for it and then left free to function 
indei>enclcntly. Nhiria Moutessori originally used the term "auto- 
education" to designate this process. 

Many aspcct,s of personality can be tested, and some jjredictions 
can be made; but no one can jHcdict what the destiny of any one 
individual will be. The only thing we can do is offer every child the 
oi)portum!v to develoj^ according to its own potentialities, and to 
acquire new perspectives that will facilitate its exploration and 
internali/ation of the cultural world aronnci it. This is the purpose 
of the jHcpared environment, including the \h)ntcssori materials, 

.•\ny api)lication of Moutessori education derives its meaning 
from these general i)rinciples. To sec how it can contribute to the 
mainstream of innovation with rcsijcct to educational .process in 
the school setting, I have chosen relevant sections of Jerome 

iner s brilliant report on the Woods Hole conference as focal 
points for tliscnssioii. 

'Hiis conference, wbich was held on Cape Cod in 1959. was 
called by the National Academy of Science. Some thirty-five 
renowned scientists, scholars, and educators particijxitcd in the 
discussions on the problems of modern education, Bruner, who was 


Mojitessori and the Process of Education 


chainiiaii of tlie conference, published his report under the title 
The Process of Education^ I shall not follow the same sequence of 
topics in comparing my views with those described by Bruner» but 
the headings are the same, and indicate the portion of the book to 
which they refer. 

Readiness for Learning 

Under this heading the hypothesis is presented that any subject 
ean he taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any 
child at any stage of development. It is called a bold hypothesis, 
although no evidence exists, it is stated, to contradict it, and much 
has been amassed that supports it. It was certainly a bold 
hypothesis when Montessori started to test it in 1907, and the 
world was startled by the results she obtained. Since then, her 
original experiment has i.een repeated and elaborated upon in 
schools the world over. W/ien tlie right n^ethods are used, one still 
sees the same results, llrr thesis, therefore, should not really be 
called a hypothesis any more, bold or otherwise. However, it is 
certainly a hopeful sign that scientists have started to take it 
seriously at last. 

If one asks oneself why it has taken so long for this to happen, 
the only possible answer is that there is evidently a prejudice in the 
realm of pedagogy and developmental psychology with regard to 
the young child. This has so far prevented any widespread scientific 
consideration of what can be obser\'ed with convincing clarity in 
Montessori schools. 

The existence of a biased attitude within this realm of science 
was confirmed by J. McV'icker Hunt in a treatise called *'7'he 
Psychological Basis for Using Pre-Scliool Enrichment as an Anti- 
dote for Cultural Deprivation."^ In it, he outlined six ''beliefs" 
dominating the thinking of psychological theoreticians until the 
niid-196()s that led to biased conclusions. One of these beliefs was 
that preschool children have not reached the level of maturation 
necessary to understand certain fundamental ideas required for a 
specific type of operational thinking. Any attempt to stinmlate 
such operational thinking was regarded as overburdening the child 



intellectually, generating frustrations that would inhibit intellec- 
tual performance later. Progressive eclucatiou consequently over- 
enipliasized tlie iniportauee of freedom, fantasy, "creativitv," and 
self expression. 

These are of vital importance to the child, but they nnist be 
integrated into a comprehensive .setting where other aspects of the 
personality, particularly intellectual growth, are also taken into 
account. If this grow'Ji is ignored, children's fuudamental needs are 
neglected. Psychoanalytic experience sliows that this tends to foster 
aggressive behavior. Frustrations are simply displaced from one 
reahi» of psychic functioning to another, from the emotional to the 
cognitive sphere. 

It is not clear to me why it is so difficult to accept that if 
nuituration is sufficient to permit what Piaget calls **concrete 
operations" it can only be thanks to an inner development that has 
been going on in the preceding period. It is particularly puzzling if 
one knows that the child has developed a quantity of functions 
pertinent to intelligence in that period. Nothing comes (?nt of the 
blue in a developmental process. In addition, what is acquired in 
the first six years of life in terms of learning becomes a characteris- 
tic, forming part aiid parcel of the personality set-up. as both 
Monk'ssori education and psychoanalysis have demonstrated. 

Although Bruner does not preclude tlie '^.'Ossibility of instructing 
younger children, he seems inclined to siiare the position of the 
Geneva sdtool. which does not endeavor to do so because their 
investfgaiion has shown that the "preoperatiouar' child (i. e., the 
preschool child) lacks the concept of reversibility.^ As this concept 
is basic to understanding fundamental ideas unucrlyiug mathe- 
matics and physics, it would be useless to try introducing these 
subjects at that stage. Bruner remarks that teachers are in general 
severely hunted in transmitting concepts to a "preoperational" 
child, even in a highly intuitive manner. 

Both statements may be true, but I have some objections to 
make. The Geneva school rightly describes the mental develop- 
ment of the preschool child as being resultant of tlie cliiUrs 
manipulating the world through action. My point is that this 
manipulation is evidently ...'cessary to obtain the experience from 
which the first conceptual tiiinking eventually emerges. It does not 
happen without previous indirect preparation. 

MoiitessoTi and the Process of Educatkm 


lliis is one of tlie fuiidaineiital discoveries of Maria Montcssori. 
It is to lier credit that she devised a means of introducing higlily 
abstract concepts in a concrete way so tliat cliildrcn could explore 
them at this early stage. 1*his means is the already mentioned 
^'materialized abstractions/* materials that isolate a general princi- 
ple or concept. A child manipulates them, perfornn'ng actions 
(wliich it loves), and in the meantime, through this seusomotoric 
experience, gets acquainted with the principle or concept involved. 
It is also taught the terms tliat go with it. This experience quickens 
its progress toward the next stage, that of "operational thinking." " 

The Geneva School 

It is particularly bewildering to me that the later developments 
in Montessori education have been ignored by the Geneva school. 
Jean Piaget, the grand old man of this school, knew Maria 
Montessori very well and was, in fact, president of the Swiss 
Montessori Society in the 19>0s. Me worked along very much the 
same lines as Montessori. basing his thinking on direct observation 
of the behavior of children, and taking into account the sequences 
of development he observed and the interaction with the environ- 
ineiit (albeit emphasizing in my opinion a bit too nuicli the role of 
the latter). 

I believe this overemphasis is related to the two things I find 
fault with in his otherwise very impressive contribution. I^'irst, 
Piaget seems to identify what is outwardly observable in the child's 
beha\ior or what it verbalizes, with that which takes place in its 
inner world, '['his is a mistake made by many other behavioral 
scientists, and is, in niy opinion, the result of an unfortunate 

1'o give a simple example, most adults have not cultivated their 
artistic potential to the extent that they are able to draw an 
accurate and realistic picture of another person whom they know 
very well. Nonetheless, \ am quite certain that they have such a 
picture in their own minds. There is clearly, then, a gap between 
what is in the mind and what can be exj)ressed. "^I'his is particularly 
true in learning processes, when one is dealing with something 
previously unknown. First, there is a passive acquisition of the new 




infornuitioii. 'I'liis is iissiniihitccl. l)ut it is not yet iiitcriiali/.ccl. Only 
w'licn (liitii hccoiiics pjrt oi ii person is lie nbic to acti\cly use it. 

In tlic uisc of (Icvclupniciit. tlic* process is cn cii longer. I Icrc. 
tlicrc is first an luiconscions acipiisitioii of information whicli 
corresponds to a particniar function that is to be formed at a gi\en 
stage of inatiiratiou. W e can. therefore, he certain that a diild's 
first ])rinnti\e drawings of people are not tlie same as the image of 
Inunan heings in its mind. (I ha\'e in mind the well-known drawing 
(if a kind of egg with foiu sticks sticking outof it designating arms 
anc! It-^s. eacli w ith fi\e stripes for fingers and toes, and a smaller egg 
for the face, with rudnnentar\ signs to indicate the eyes, nose, 
nioutli. and hairs.) 

\\ hat has happened is that the child has percei\'ecl a great 
ipiantity of people. It has elaborated its impressions of them to the 
extent that it can reduce them to a scheme connnon to all, which 
reflects their essence, as it were. This rudimentary drawing is the 
result of an abstraction. It has taken j)laee unconsciously, that is 
true, but it has ne\ertheless taken place. The product cannot be 
used to jtidge the eapacit\- of the child's mind for abstraction. 
S{)metlung can be learned from it about the wa\- in which this inner 
acti\it\ is manifested in obserxable beha\'ior. hut tliis is not the 
same thing. The ehilcPs capacity for sensory di' crimination, the 
cjuality >f its |)ercepti(jn of reality, its seiise ot ])roportions, its 
artistic evaluation of pict{)ral representations ni general, cannot be 
determined from what it has draw n, Yet this is w liat Piaget tends to 
do with the material he assend)les from his ohserx ations. 

My second objection to Piaget is that he then proceeds to 
interpret and categorize this material using standards of adult 
h>gie.^ The system is j)erfect, but tlie image of the einid that results 
from it is distorted. In one of her writings •* Montessori discusses 
the results of judging the newborn child morphologically by adult 
standards. I*Vom this stand])oint. it is a monster. She also pointed 
out how painters in the Middle Ages and later, not yet being 
conscious of the morphological differences between adults and 
ehildren, gave children the proportions of adults, so that they 
resend)]cd dwarfs. These painters were \'cry skilled in jjerceiving 
and reproducing reality. lloue\er. their prejudice regarding what 
children were like j)revente(l them from representing children as 
tliev reallv were. 

A/onfc'.v.sor/ and the Proceas of Education 


I Ijclic'Vc tluit .soiiictlniig siniiliir occurs in Piagct's psycliology, 
iiiul tliat it is tlic reason lie overlooked the finulamental discovery 
of Montessori meiitionecl above. 1 have discussed this matter at 
length because \ ;nn convinced that no real progress can he made in 
tlie study of intellectual growth if this a priori attitude prevails. 
The view of the child as an imperfect adult is based on prejudice, 
and only if this prejudice is rooted out can unbiased research on 
hu!uan development he done. Ft is particularly important that this 
be done now that scienfists of Bruner\s stature have, at last, paved 
the way for an ajjproach to education based on this kind of 

W'e can already predict, fronj Montessori's experience, some of 
the |)heuomeiKi that unprejudiced researchers will encounter with 
regard to the readiness for learning of the preschool child in a 
prepared environment. For example, children have an inner need to 
le;iru. If they receive -adecjuate help, they respond to this need with 
an astounding intensity of involvement and concentration on a 
given task, and, what is more, they perform the task fully. I^hcy 
derive satisfaction from their own activity, which is highly meaning- 
ful to theni, not from the teacher's appreciation of their work or 
grades. The acquisition of information is felt to be a discovery. The 
formation of a new function is experienced as a conquest. The 
children*s egos are strengthened, and they develop a love of work 
and a respect for the environnwmt that offers them the sources of 
the saHs faction described above. 

This is, in my opinion, of particular importance in our time. If 
liuman dignity and joy in living are not to be smothered by the 
Inckistrial Age, the true vahie of work as an aspect of nian*s 
creativity and cosmic task nmst be restored. This is only possible if 
education takes into consideration the earliest roots of work, the 
activities related to the inner construction of the personality, and 
not merely directed toward an external goal. It is from this .source 
that the child gets its motivation to learn, and it is a strong one. 
Teaching has a developmental function only if it corresponds to 
this motivation. 

'Ilie child's own response is the best guide in this respect. If it is 
one of interest and coiicentration, then one is on the right track. I 
am, of course, speaking of children who have gone through the 
process of normali/atiori. On this foundation a curriculum can 




indeed be built around the great issues, principles, and values that a 
society deems worthy of the contiiuial concern of its members. This 
can be accomplished even on the prepriniary level, as Montessori 
education has demonstrated with a great deal of success. 

The Importance of Structure 

In discussing the function of learning to serve the future, 
Bruner points to tlie distinction made by psychologists between 
learning as a transfer of specific training (the utility of which is 
limited in the main to skills) and learning as a transfer of principles 
and attitudes that involves the continual broadening and deepen- 
ing of knowledge in terms of basic and general ideas. He rightly 
states that this second type of transfer is at the heart of the 
educational process. He also states that a great deal of research is 
needed to know what it takes to produce this kind of learning but 
tliat "it would seem that an important ingredient is a sense of 
excitement about discovery— of regularities, of previously unrecog- 
nized relations and similarities between ideas, [and the] resulting 
sense of self-confidence in one's abilities."**^ I believe that iMon- 
tessori education can serve as a focal point for nuich of this 

I have aheady explained the function of the Montessori 
material. However, I wish here to connect it witli the concept of a 
transfer of principles and attitudes just mentioned. Tliis is an area 
even Montessori-trained teachers sometimes find difficult to under- 
stand. The role of the Montessori material is not to present all 
knowledge in concrete form. That would be too difficult for a child 
to understand from verbal instructions only. Nor is it to break 
down a complex thing into its elements. If that were tlie case, it 
would only ser\'e the more limited goal of learning in the sense of a 
specific transfer of training. 

Teachers who think of the Montessori material in this way still 
have in mind the old conception of school education. Conse- 
quently, they find the Montessori material too Innited and proceed 
to "improve*' matters by flooding the classroom with quantities .of 
additional material. I can testify from niy own experience to what 


Motitessori and the Process of Educatioti 


extremes of iiioiiklike devotion and patience tliese nn'sgiiided 
Montessori teacliers ean go. Wliat time and money tliey are willing 
to spend to prodnee this mass of most attractive-looking hallastf 
And how prond tlicy are of it. 

It places one in a most nncomfortahle position, ft is hard to 
react adeqnately when a loyal pnppy jnnips into onr sitting room to 
deposit a dead sparrow it has gone to great lengths to catch for ns. 
It looks at ns with tail wagging, fnll of expectation, waiting for its 
reward, Still, a dead sparrow is what it has bronght ns, Psvchologi- 
cally speaking, what these teachers actnally do is destroy the trnc 
fnnction of the Montessori material. 

T'he material is intended to facilitate a transfer of nonspecific 
knowledge, that of a general idea or principle that can later be nsed 
as a basis for recognizing special cases or applications of it. 
Montessori material should be developmental. It slionld be limited 
to essentials, and shonld be constructed so that a particular general 
idea or principle is isolated. The children then become conscious of 
this idea or principle by handling the material in the way they are 
: instructed. T'he built-in controls of error show them when thev are 
wrong. The insight they gain into the underlying general principle 
or idea is felt as a personal discovery. They are fascinated by it and 
will repeat an exercise time and again with great concentration 
until they have fully absorbed the principle or concept it illustrates. 

1*he subsequent applications of what is learned in this way may 
be limitless, .And, as Bruner writes, "1'he best way to create interest 
in a subject is to render it worth knowing, which means to make the 
knowledge gained usable in one's thinking beyond the situation in 
which the learning has occurred." Educational material should 
facilitate this kind of learning. Classrooms should not be cluttered 
with other material that distracts the child. For example, if 
smelling bottles were specifically for the development of smelling as 
a .skill, one might well want to have dozens and dozens of different 
fragrances all bottled and ready for matching. Our young students 
would soon be connoisseurs of odors. However, the purpose of 
smelling iiottlcs is not a knowledge of odors, but an awakening of 
the sense of snielh since the intellect is built upon the alertness of 
the senses. A few bottles suffice for this purpose. A huge quantitv 
would not only be confusing, but would result in overkill. 



Intuitive and Analytic Thinking 

111 stressing tlic importance of a student's intuitive, ratlier tliaii 
formal, uiiclerstanding of siil)jects. Briiner advises tliat we sliould 
distingiiisli l)et\vcen inarticulate genius and articulate idiocy. He 
iiiaiiitaiiis that the emphasis of much of traditional schooling and 
traditional types of examinations leads to the latter. Students can 
reproduce vcrhal oi^niunerical formulas, hut they have no ahility to 
use tliein in a meaningful way. Hriiner suggests that intuitive 
thinking should complement analytic thinking, and that cnrricu- 
lums should he plaimed accordingly. "The ohjcctive of education." 
he poiiitsout. "is not the production of self-confident fools." 

1 fullv agree. 1 should like to stress in this connection that 
cnrricuhnns should not he planned in such a manner that each 
snhjcct is treated as a separate entity, disconnected from everything 
else. At a time when ecology was still a fairly unknown hrancli of 
science. Mtnitessori proposed to introduce it as a vehicle for the 
coordination of different suhjects and as a model to he adopted in 
other fields of instruction. In this way. the iiiterrehitedness of 
natural pheiioineiui would hecoinc apparent to the children. 
Kurtliermore. thinking wonld he cond)iiied with action and experi- 
mentation, so that not onh the mind hut the whole personality of 
the child would he involved. 

Aids to Teaching 

With regard to the nsc of technical devices other than the 
.\h)iitessori material (such as films, tapes, and television) as aids to 
teaching, we can. in the main, adhere to Brmier's conclusion that 
"the teacher's task as connnunicator. model, and identification 
figure can he supported hy a wise use of a variety of devices that 
expand experience, clarify it. and give it personal significance." 
Such devices must, however, fit in with the general approach 
descrihed at the hegiiming of this chapter in order to serve their 
purpose. I'his cannot he stressed sufficiently. 

This means tluit whatever the teacher hrings into the environ- 


Montessori and, the Process of Education 


iiicnt iimst have j dcfiintc purpose, and it iiiiist liavc a definite 
purpose for indiv idiial children. 'I'he teacher determines this 
purpose from c)l)serving tlie chilcireu. It is \sise to reniend)er tluit a 
materia! addled to the environiucut is stimulating to a child. If it 
has always heen there, it hecouies part of the scenery and is not 
noticed. What is not in use should ])e removed, no matter how 
professional it makes the environment appear. Classrooms where 
this principle is not observed sometimes look like they should be 
captioned "IBM for Children." Another j)rincip!!ie to rcmend)er is 
that it is the atlult who has a purpose in bringing material into the 
classroom. J he children are not aware of this purpose. This lack of 
awareness is what leads them to feel that they are in fact teaching 
thenisehes. **\ just taught myself* is a phrase that is often heard in 
a good classroom. If the opposite is true, if the children feel it is the 
material that is doing the teaching, its presence in the en\aronment 
is suspect. 

Motixen for Learniivj, 

.Mthough this topic has alread\ I)een discussed, J would like to 
conclude hy quoting once more from Bruner's remarks on the 
subject, for they indicate what Montessorrs contribution to 
contemi)orar\ education can be. "Nh)tives for learning," lie wr-tes, 

iniist he kept Uo\\\ going passive in an age of spect^rorshij). th'-\ 
iimst he based as much as possihle upon txte arousal ot niterest i 
what tlierc is tt) he learned, and they must he kept broad and dive. 
in expresMon The danger signs of nieritocrac v and a new form ot 
eoiMpetitiveness are ahead\ m evidence. Aheady it is possihie to see 
where advance j)launing can help. Such planning, and the research to 
suj)p<irt It, should he iiucn priority." 

Moutessori education not only works along the lines prciposed 
in Brimer's report, but it makes certain contributions that are more 
far reaching. 'I herefore, 1 suggest that the researcii proposed in llie 
Process (if l\ducdti(m should certainly include a serious study of 
Moutessori education and its application in tlie school. 


kducation for human dkvklop • 


1, Helena A MiDc/:. "A Proposjl for the hiipro»cinent )f Educjtioii 
ill Anicricj," The Amencan Biolo^v Teacliar^ %ol. 27. no. I (jwniiary 1965). 

2. E. C. Frijling-Sclircudcr, ""'r/MjUgr r-v '.^u I'iducjtioii," j pjpcr rejd 
to Hit- Dutch PsyX'ho::injKtic;d Society. :\ni:i.;«Tdain. Fchrujry 5. 1970. 

y. Jerome S. Bruner. iVmc/rJ c Vhc-'zy of InstTUCtion (Cjnibridge, 
Mjss.- Belknjp. Hjnjrd University iV--^-?-.. p. 5. 

4. Jeronu- S. Brinier. The Proivr: ;// EduL'ation (Cjinhridge. Mj5s.: 
Ihir\'jrd Univeisity Prcs.s. 1966)- 

5. In Tfw Challenge of Incompetence and Poverty (Urbjnj: Univer- 
sity of Illinois. 1969]. pp. 2-v 

6. 71ie Geneva school geiierjlly refers ^> fcjn Piii^e Barbel Inliel- 
der, jnd their associates at the Institute ology and the Interna- 
tional O uter of C^eiit'tic Kpistenioloi , U :va, Switzerland. For 
similarities between tlieir findings and education, sec Mon- 
tessori: A Modem Approach (New Yoil Books. 1971). pp. 2v 
26.-P. L. 

7. riie basic difference here lies in the concept "'readiness for 
karni'^^." Tlie Geneva school emphasizes tlie inatiuational development 

, ci tl • chtld tlirougli tlie stages of preoperational, operational, and formal 
op«.: ■ t^iiiul thinking. 'I'lie cliikl is considered "ready" to learn any subject 
at jfH* providing it is approached on the right level. 

Montessori also recognized iiiaturational stages development (tlie 
sensitive periods, which include physical, emotion a!, and cognitive develop- 
ment). S!ie was less interested in defining these stages than in meeting the 
needs of tlie diild which they represented. She did not consider whether a 
child was "ready" to leani any particular subject, but rather devised her 
materials solely to meet the recognizable needs of the child during the 
various sensitive periods. Therefore, the phrase "readiness for learning" is 
not used in Montessori education. Tlie words "aiding the child's develop- 
n.ept in its sensitive periods" are^—P. I.. 

8. h'or an explanation of liis metliod in doing this, see Jean Piagct, 
Logic and Psychology (New York: Basic Books. 1958). 

9. Maria Montessori, Pedagogical Anthropology (New York: Stokes, 


10. Bruiier, The Proc^Hs of Education, p. 20. 

n. Ibid., p. >1. 

12. Ibid., p. 65. 

n. Ibid., p. 91. 

14. Ibid., p. 80. 



Wlien uc consider iiiaiikiiicl iis a uliolc. it scciiis apparent tliat it 
docs not adapt easily to changes, even those it lias brought a bant 
itself. Vet. man is prond of h > free will, his freedom of choice, and 
his independence, lie also has a grea'^cr capacity for adap* ^tion 
than animals, as well as greater inJ-elligencc, which enables biin to 
learn llirongh experience. In practice, however, this is not so 
evident. Kgocentricity, intolerance, prejndice, stubbornness, nar- 
* funiindedness, conforniism, and intellectual and nu^ral confusion 
are rampant the world over. 

'Iliis state of affairs, in LOinbuiation with the steadily accelerat- 
ing technical progr. . .nd the growing population cone - ntration in 
new industrial areas, is certainly not favorable to a harmonious 
development of the personality. The struggle for life is clearly 
aggravated, imd the tensions in interpersonal relationships have 
increased. Automation of labor Is accompanied by ever-increasing 
specialization, which tends to preclude an overall view of the field 
one is working in. The iiidi\idual pursues immediately attainable 
goals. Dedication to work is eroded by the lure of wages, which 
then become an end in theuiselves. Competition increases, and 
relationships become more superficial and casual. Bureaucracy 
increasingly restricts personal freedom, and man becomes a mere 
digit. 'Hiis diminishes his serse of responsibility toward the 
community and its political st^'ictures. lie becomes 'ucreasingly 



viiov H)K HUMAN diaki.oi'Mjm 

Survival as a person in this turbulent and c\ cr cliangiiig world is 
so clifficnli that even man's capacity to love and give of himself 
seems to give way before the cra\ ing for power, opportunism, and 
hypocrisy. The old \ahies and institutionalized patterns of beha\'ior 
no longer pro\ idc adequate norms. ^*et they are still clung to. and 
as a result there is growing discrepancy between eonscious and 
unc{)iLsei()us moti\ations. 

In I^H6. in a lecture ccuisidered impressi\e at the time, though 
now perhaps largel\ forgotten. Maria Montessori deserii;cd the 
impasse now threatening mankind.' She pointed out that we are 
living m a new world, a \' )rld constructed with wonderful rapidity 
in the past century tliroui^li the cooperation of intelligent men and 
w ith the help of machines. This world was not consciously w illed by 
man. I le was. in fact, surprised by it. Ne\ertlu.!ess. humanity is now 
united by connnon interests, and its home is no longer a specific 
nation, but iiie whole planet, l^'ormerly. the unity of men was only 
tUi ideal. Now. exterior de\eh)i)nients are creating a real unity of 
material interests, and thus hning the groundwork for the rctdi/.a 
tion of that spiritual ideal. 

I lowe\er. this surprising acliie\ cment does not seen? to us to be 
a triumj)h. ft seems, ratlicr. to he an awe.somc menace because 
man's de\'elopn«rtit has itot kept p:i< with his technological prog- 
ress. .Man is noi con^, i:)i*s of his ciianged position in the world 
around him and therefore continues to cherish all the prejudices 
ingrained in his soul during the course of history. 

'I'he need to help man toward a new consciousness nf, and a 
new adaj^tation U , ('?e world m which he li\es. is evident. In (ui-- 
time. man. whether lonqneror or concjuered. is the slave of his own 
enviroiunent. Seldom, if ever before, has he reached ^uch .v: 
extreme of impotence. \\'e are all. today, living in insecurity uud 
fear. W e are in bondage. e\ en though we are not willing to .linU 
it. and therefore re|)eat the stereotyped refrain that we a:c f(;; 
freedom and independence. Real freedom will only ])e possible 
when the balance between man and his environment has !)ten 
restored: in other words, when man has de\eh ped new values and 
has a more complete nuistery of his en\ ironment. Only then will ht 
he able to break his self-made and useless bor Is and dc\ elop a firm 
orientation in the new circumstances of his world. 


Education in a Chaui*nv^ World 

Moiitcssori presented these ideas in 1946. Today, it is all too 
evident how difficult it is for adults to change their views, let alone 
ulter their way of life. It is only ' hen <;ne studies man's 
development that his eaj)aeity for adaptjfion and the flexibilitv of 
Ins lu'conie apparent. Children have special potentialities 
e!i-;ible them, through interacti{>n with their environment, to 
/i hiew self realization. They do tiu . first, by becoming one with 
tlieir immedi;Ue cnvironnxnt. I'lns unity enables them to achieve 
h'Lcdom withm their world as adults. *I'he basic patterns of tlicir 
hcliavior and their basic at' tndes toward tla-mselves. other people, 
and tiieif environnjeut are all determined in this early period. In 
Montessori's words. 

Because nun is boni ni diffc-rent periods of histoi>. to uhich he 
always has to adji>t liinisclf. it is inipL-niti\e th;it !iis l)uing nnist fii^t 
of all receive and collect, until the foinidation is bid for L-vcrv 
specific adaptation to the specific environment of that historical 
nioniL'nt in which hv was born. l lms. ihv first year of life ippear^ js j 
period of exceptional activity in which tliL- whok- unvnomncMit is 
absorbed by the psyche. In the second year, the child approaches its 
physical completion: its movements become determinate. This 
proves phnnly how. in ;iccordaiice with the natural pjttern nf 
development, the movenient.s are determined by tiie psych ie life." 

However, children need the guidance of adults as well; their 
development into mdependent and u::iture personalities depends 
on their further education. It s a mistake to think ti»at this 
development will ha]}pen of its -^wn acccvrd. or that the j)ersonalitv 
traits considered necessary for wcn-adjustv*d behavior within a 
conn nun ity come into being onlv dming adolescence. A lone and 
indir;.xt process of j)reparati()n is necessary before these trait^ 
become manifest. Personal evperienees durini: early childhood 
determine the role they play lU the mature personality, as well as 
how they are expressed. 

Because the basic patterns of human behavior are not deter- 
mined by herechty. as in the case of aniinals. cliildr.en must build 
these up through their ov . activities. Front the li'eginning. rhev 
stiK v to achieve their personal aims, but they are dependei?t for 
their realization on the po.ssibil ikies provided by their environn 




Reality imposes restrictions on vvliat can be acconiplishcci, cducn 
tors posit norms, social life prescribes specific rules of conduct, 
society expects varions skills and knowledge of its mer;ihcrs\ and 
their own bodies have their demands. 

Further, the pattern of development inhereiit in the formation 
of UKJu and which intrinsically guides the ijnOi jdnal toward 
maturity, umst be considered. This is manifested the form of 
inner needs, differing according to the level of nuihiration, that 
direct the per.sonality toward specific objects, activities, and experi- 
ences necessarv for healthy development and adaptation, 'fiiese 
needs serve to maintain the hahiuce between the psychosomatic 
unity of the person and his environment. 

Professor A. A. Schneiders of Boston College calls all physiologi- 
cal and psychological inner needs of this kind the intrinsically 
determined motivating factors of human beiiavior. fie also points 
out their fundamental importance to the harmonious development 
of personality.-^ 'Hie Lai that so many different factors play a part 
in the development t^r ilic personality precludes the prevention of 
conflicts. This is not in itself harmful, provided solutions are sought 
that lead to a further integration and enlargement of eouscionsness. 

Here, the aid of education is indispensable. For example, the 
striving for independence is a fmuiauK'utal charactcri.stic of man 
that mauifest^ tself from early youth on. provided a child fcclsr 
sufficiently secure. If too nuicb. or too little, i.s asked of children in 
this respect, they make no attempt at independence. 'Fhcir physical 
growth may continue, but as persons they remain dependent aiid 
uncertain^ even as adults. 

\u a paper reau some years ago to teachers of secondary schools, 
I disc issed another aspect of this problem— tlie emergence of gangs 
and juvenile delinquency among teenagers who are left to their own 
devices as they advance toward independence. Neither their 
parents nor their schools scein to be able to give them the aid 
necessary for them to orient themselves in their woHd.^ Some vcars 
ago, J. Fdgar Floover, the late head of the F.B.I., called the 
increasing mind)er of juvenile delinquents dangerous to the future 
of the countr\\ More recently, a report was piiblislied in England 
dealing with the increasing amount of venereal disease among 
teenagers and pinpointing the laxness and indifference of parents 


I'.ducdtion in a Cfitini;iii^ W orld 

regarding t!ic cciucation of tiicir ciiiiclrcii iis ;i co-cictcniiiiiiiig 

J'!ic attitude of jjareuts tdw.ird tlicir cliildrcn in early youtli. as 
\\v\] as during pu!)(;rtv. is niK|uc'stH)nal)ly a wry important factor in 
dck-riuining tiicir luu^fr attitude toward t! it- jn selves and tlieir 
fellow lunnau !)eings. *l'lie first ])liase of life is of special importance 
because it is then that the deveiopuient of personality ' ikes place 
hi the uiiconscitjus and provities the basis on which further 
individuation takfs place. 

I'iiese insijjhts {.-ouie from the pioneering v^ork of Siguunui 
Freud, whose thecMv of personality may be rcj^arded as the most 
influential and icomjjreluiisive to date. Psychoaijaiysis has brought 
to light fundaineutal and previously luiknown features of human 
develoui icnt, and thus contributed considerably toward :i better 
uudcrstandnig of the iniconscious dynamics inherent in the genesis 
of personality. The model constructed from it indicates both the 
continuity and the successive variety of the basic pattern of 
d'jvclopment. At the same tnne, it takes into account the psycho- 
logical as well as the biological and sociological detenninaiit.s of 
behavior. Psychoanalysis has not onb cstablisi the influence of 
tiie infantile situation in the formation of character. It has also 
shown how obstinately the patterns of adaptation cstaljli.slied at 
this early stage persist in the adult personality, even if they prove 
inadequate to cope with the adult's life situation. 

The decisive role of infantile experiences and en '>tional reac- 
tions has been demonstrated again and again, it is. it present, 
accepted in the majority of the theories of personality, though « 
there are siiarp differences of opinion about the nature and 
interpretation of findings. Tlie following views are quite generally 
accepted: One, the wa\ in which a cliilci experiences different 
methods of education and infant cue has a lasting effect on its 
personalits", Two, the feeling of insecurity and fe^u experienced hy a 
bab\' when its need for food, comfort, sceurity, or love is too 
strongly or abruptly frustrated has an especially unfavorable effect. 
It may result in a deeply ingrained attitude of distrust of other 
people and the world in general. Three, still ukkc nnportant is the 
parent-child relationship during the whole period of development, 
particularly the first three years 



' ouhl like to discuss some of the „H,st C(,i„„,on pmblcnis in 
j >is regard aiKl their «,i.sec|ue.Kes for the ad.dt pcrso.iulitv 
Re,eel.(,n of eluklre.i mk.v lead to uneertaintv ;.„d self clevahuitioiV 

'^"'i^-'' ''>■ '"'Utility, rehelhousi.ess. <,r other negative' 

l>eliavH.r, „r else to apatlu and indifTerenee ni adnlt life Their 
;'l"l>tv to and receive love will akvavs he prohleniatic. Maternal 
overproieetion. if indulgent, may lead io egoism, egocentridtv 
.rrespoMsd.ihtv. and a redncecl tolerance of frnstiation: if dennina't- 
n.g. It n.av lead to snhnnssiveness. awkwardness, a lack of initiative 

and passive <lependencc In hoth case., a heightened and)i^aleMCc 

in relalnmships with the opposite sex is to he expected. Too strict 
.^cipln.e may stnimlate a basic attitude either of conformism or of 
rebellion. Inconsistent or in.deqnate discipline mav Weaken a 
person s self-control ami abihty to reach decisions or eoi,frcm"t 
normal^ciiltKs. An anthontarian and int.Jerant attitude on tnc 
|.art o parents with regard to ti.-e behavior of then children 
gcnemlK .nceases feelings of guilt and conflicts of conscience and 
there :s a Ingh probability that the children will develop into rigi<l 
pcrs<maht,es. Ihc generallv aecepte.r theories <,f pc-rsonalitv also 
akt^ into account fannlv relationships, the positn.n of the cliild in 
the tamdv. sd^ rivalry, and the educational situation in general 
^'11 ot vUnclrare held to influence the development of ll,; 

-Xlany more examples could he given of the fact that modern 
psvcl.ologv regards the adecinate gratificati.m of inner needs as - 
"Khspensable to the optimal, dcveloinnent of the pcrsonalitv 
hese needs are not cnily for food, rest, and affection, but also for 
stnnnlation. self-devdopmcnt. exploration. in<lependence and a- 
sponsib.htv. There mav be a diffaonce of opinion ab.n.t tli'e wav hi 
which t,:.s gratification should conic about, but its nec-.ssit^ 'for 
lieaitljy 'levelopment is accepted bv all. 

'IV- ,e views are wholly in acco'rdance with .Vlontcssori orhici- 
ples. It would seem useful, then, for other educators to studv" these 
princ.ples. regardless of eventual differences of opinion about their 
practical apphcations. The method is not in itself of particiilir 
importance. Wh.t is essential is !!,e rcali/ation that cducatim, 
plays a fundamental role in the development of the personalitv It 
It to give form. Content, and direction to personal 


EdtWiition in a Changing World 


existence. This function of cclncntion can only be renlizecl to a 
significant extent if educators are guided by the knowledge of the 
mner needs determining human development and the influence of 
unconscious education is taken into account. 

In our time, especially in view of the necessity for collaborating 
in- our construction of a peaceful nuclear age, we may not disregard 
our responsibility to ethKJte our children properly, it is not an easy 
task, but one we nmst attempt; Although we hve in a world of 
contrachctions, it is. nevertheless, rupidly becoming a connnon 
workL As a result, we become involved in nn ever-increasing 
number of social contests as we come into contact with vie\ss, 
customs, ways of hfe. iind vahics that differ from our own. flow can 
young people orient themselves in a world where they are being 
overwhehned by incoherent i;npressions, artificial stinmh, threats of 
war, materiahstic philosophies, and double standards of morals; 
when the\' are surrounded by ad nits who often do not under^>tand 
them because they themselves cannot iidjust to too rapid changes, 
who are too busy to be bothered, or whc only emphasi/.c the 
immatniity of the young without providing any constructive \isions; 
to guide them; \shen their uiost obvious sources of inspiration are 
television and the bizarre products of industries speciah/.ing in the 
juvenile market and apneaHng to the njost superficial aspects of 
their still unstiible selves:^ 

it is not surprising that, on the threshold of adulthood, young 
people tend to shrink from responsible participation in this 
apparently chaotic reabtv, that they take refuge in a world of their 
own making, (?MC that reflects their inexperience, their labile 
emotional Hfe. aiid tlieir innnatnrity. 'i'herc is something demon- 
strative, even defiant, about this phenomenon, as if the young 
uould hke to say, "If you can't be bothered about us, we will assert 
ourselves in our own way." 'I'his often takes the form of a forced 
attempt at adulthood, even to bringing into the world children 
uliom they are totally incapable of niising. In tiiis way, they add to 
the increasing number of unbalanced people in our culture. 

We have no right to dissociate ourselves from these phe- 
nomena, frouj "the youth of today.** 'l*he difference between them 
and us resides not in their youth itself, but in the circnnistances in 
which the\ are growing up. We. the adults, are responsible for these 




Circumstances, and licncc for their coiiscqncnccs. It is our duty to 
look for the means tliat will enable the adults of tomorrow to live 
in peace with themselves and their world. 

Education will, in any case, have to devote itself to the 
development of world citizens. The conception of "cosmic educa- 
tion," which Montessori introduced on the occasion of the 
International Montessori Conference in Amsterdam in 1950, and 
which is discussed in Chapter 8, was intended as a contribution in 
this direction. 

l ive idea found no acceptance then. Apparenth. the time was 
Hot ripe for such a reform. Perhaps the present world situation is 
more conducive to it. The interdependence of nations is constantly 
increasing. The prosperity and adversity of one is reflected in the 
others, and the necessity of accepting the idea of a world 
connnnmty has become more obvious. 

1'hose who are aware of this should give the coming generation 
])oth a vision of the common destiny of humanity and a more 
adequate preparation for active cooperation to further connnon 
interests. W e have already shown that adults do not easily change 
tfieir accustomed views and tlia i man has been unable to keep pace 
with the too-rapid changes brought about by his own inventions. 
Only a minority are mature enough to use these inventions 
cons truer ivelv. In general, our situation can be compared with that 
of an unbalanced child in possession of a loaded gnu. lii his pursuit 
of progress, iwan has ignored his own development. 

Xhiria MoiiT, sor; said on tins subject thut "man has not yet 
built the saiiif spiritual defences which hygiene prestribcs for the 
body; no scientific aid whatsoever has been given ro help tbv 
adaptation to radically changed ways of life. WTiiir he is in 
connnand f)f the riches and power of the earth., man lias neglected 
the supreme energy of his own intellect." ^ The accuracy of her 
words is well illustrated in the pithy, brilliant description jacques 
Bar/.un gives of our democratic culture, particularly with respect to 
the degradation of the Innnan intellect.'^ 

It is, therefore, an urgent nece^Jsity that the eniph:'«is in 
scienHfic thought not be only on the qualities of tlie objective 
wodd. J qual weight should be given to the study of forces 
dctermimng subjective behavior, wliich are still largely unknown. 


Education in a C/zu/ii^i/ig World 


Hopefully, then, new ways of coping with onr changing world in a 
more efficient way. will be cliscovcrccL 

The sitnation is comphcatcd by the rapiditv with which the 
hnnian sciences have developed and branched ont. Because of tin's, 
they possess few certainties- At the same time, certainties are 
demanded in increasing measure by society. Scientists are thus put 
under pressure. They have to bei>ave as authorities while being 
daily confronted by the insnfEciency of their knowledge concerning 
their objects of study. 

Man is not so Ci^sily fathomed. Not only are there many 
determinants to his behavior, but the vagueness and fluidity of his 
psychic life and the elusiveness of the spiritual aspect of his being 
make scientific research difficult. There is also the lack of distance 
between subject and object (which in this case coincide; to contend 
with. It is not mere chance that it took the enipiried sciences so 
long to turn to the study of man's inner life. 

Perhaps partly because of the speed with which this develop- 
ment did take place in the past decades, we find within this vast 
field of activity much the same situation as that in society in 
general. In :reasing specialization has made it difficult for scientists 
to obtain an overall view of their own fields of study. As a result, 
they are inclined to retire to their own small area of experience and- 
to ignore or vehemently combat their neighbors' findings. Because 
of this, their work often lacks an integrative purpose. They seem 
like drifting boats in the ever-increasing stream of practical 
problems. Sometimes they collide with one another; sometimes 
the\ are aided by another's wake. .Actually, they lead nowhere. The 
general impression is often one of pseudo-science. 

This unsatisfactory state of affairs makes the need for intcgra- 
ti(m obvious A growing number of scientists are becoming 
conscious of the connnon destiny of their efforts. Consequently, a 
willingness to cooperate to create "a comprehensive science of 
inair'8 is becoming apparent. Partly because of poor connnunica- 
tion. this cooperation is only laboriously coming about. Actually, 
not much of it is evident, as yet. This is true even in particular 
disciplines and subdisciplines. ft is also true in education, and for 
that matter in developmental psychology, whicli is no more than an 
umbrella for a hirge variety of views and findings.^ 



i pointed out tiuit Montcssori's vision oF iiuui is tiiu most 
v;iiiuii)iL' and sciLMitiftc;illy fruitful ;ispcct of iicr spiritu;il iicritngc. f 
l)cIicvL' tiuit it is ;i useful point of cicpurturu for a new, coniprc- 
liLMLsivc study of uuni. In it \\v may tuui a catalyst for tlic kind of 
cooperation nicntiouccl ai)()vc. particularly in tiic service of educa- 
tion, in my opinion, the study of man should jnimarily i)C 
concerned witii man in infancy, when iiis existence is marked hv 
seeming helplessness, but when he is actually involved in a potent 
inner activity. The essence of what is created bv this inner activitv 
eludes us. Nevertheless, it is of greater significance than all man's 
later creative acliie\.enients. 

In infancy, thv human being possesses specific potentialities 
whose nature is ur.xnown to us, but whose effects have struck nian\ 
scientists. The tiiscovc'ries of Maria Montessori and Signuuid I->end 
luue contributed cjreaMv to our understanding of man at this early 
>t:u.;c tii diveh i .:tcnt, Kreud studied unconscious drives and their 
manifestations m emotionally disturbed adults within a special 
therapeutic situation; Montessori studied the manifest behavior of 
normal children in a specially prepared pedagogical situation. Both 
sought to explain the phenomena they observed, and both found 
general patterns in the de\elopment of the human being. In 
essence, these seem to confirm and to complement each other, 

PsNehoanalytic thought has nndergoue. in later vears. a shift 
toward the consideration of normal development. Since this was 
the starting point of Montessori education, greater collal)oration 
between the two disciplines may he conceivable in the future, fn 
any event, they do have many principles in connnon. W'c should 
starf from these, and adapt our educational aims to the basic 
patterns deveh>j)ment found. We will then he giving education ' 
a wider scoi)e. tiiat of helping in the formation of man. \Vc should 
do tins from tiie verv beginning of life. Some will think that this 
Aay will take too long to be of any practical use in the solution of 
the problems confrontiug education today. We should renieinber, 
liowever. that the stimulus for our present technical progress was 
not the study of the macrocosmo,s. It was the studv of the 
nncrocosmos. of particles too minute even to he seen. 

The forces within the atom, for so long unknown to man, 
appear to be so potent that they will enable him to visit other 


Education in a Changing W'orld 

planets, or to destroy himself ehtirely. Is it, then, so stninge to 
iissumc that the study of the still mysterious forces of the inind, 
which enahle the young child to construct within itself the 
foundations of its personal existence, may reveal things hcncficial 
to man's development? 1 do iiot think so. Nor did Maria 
Montessori, or for that matter many others. 

In my opinion, education can only help to solve the present 
impasse in human atTairs if it abandons its traditional preoccupa- 
tion with t!;e leaching of skills and the transfer of knowledge. Its 
goal should he, instead, to aid the basic patterns that direct man 
from within, so that balanced development can take place. Only in 
this way can modern man develop a personahty flexible and strong 
enough to cope with the complex requirements of a rapidly 
changing world. 


1 . Hr. \h)ntcssori ujs speaking to a congress organized by the Dutch 
brnnch of t lie New Kd neat ion h'cllowship, the Instihite of Child Care and 
Fd;ii !ti{)ii, iind the Dutch \h>ntessori Society in Utrexht. lier topic was 
hv Kainily," 

Z. Maria Montessori, Aan de basis \an het (even {Bussuni, Nether- 
lands: \'au Holkenia en Warendorf. 19-49), p. 86. 

V See A. A. Sci)n eiders. Personality Development and Adjustment in 
Adolescence ; \hlwaukee, \\'is\: Bruce. 1960). 

I. M. Yt. \!ontessori, "Gedrngsniotivatie hi) de opgroeiende mens," a 
paper read to the principals and lecturers of tlic Montessori lycea, 'I'he 
Hague. February 2S, 1964. 

^. A very lucid exposition of the psychoanalytic viewpoint on 
assessments of devchipnient is given by Anna Freud in Normality and 
Pc^thology in Childhood: Assessments of Development (New York: Interna- 
tional Universities Press, 1966). 

6. See note 1 above. 

7, Jac(|ues Bar/.un, The U(mse of Intellect (New ^*ork: Harper 
Brothers, 19=59), 

S. C. Khickhohn. Mirror for Man {New York: McGraw-Hill, 19-49), 

p. 1. 

9. .\h M. Montessori. Some Remarks on the Anthropology of 
Montessori Education (Aiiistertiani: A.M.!. Connnunications, 1965). 

10. Secv for example, Rene A. Spitz and Godfrey W. Cobliner, First 



Year of Life: A Psychoanalytic Study of Normal and Deviant Develop- 
ment of Object RelatioTv; (New York: International Universities Press, 



As long ago as the i940s, Maria Moiitessori was aware of the social 
crisis confronting us today. Slie described in powerful language 
hnnian helplessness in the face of the forces of progress. Man 
himself, she wrote, had nnchained these forces by liis own creative 
action, but he had not been able to keep pace with them in terms 
of adaptation and development. Ihere was "a lack of balance 
between man and his environment from which humanity nnist 
dehver itself by strengthening its own resources, developing its own 
values, healing its own madness, and becoming conscious of its own 
power/* ^ 

Little has been done, as yet, to correct this imbalance. On the 
contrary, not only does the situation seem to have deteriorated, but 
predictions for the near future are not at all reassuring. Professor 
Zbigniew Br/ezinski of Columbia University foresees, for example, 

A society culturally, psychologically, socially, and economically 
shaped by the impact of technology and electronics, with computers 
able to produce "creative" thought and, if wedded to robots, human- 
like action. 

Hnniah-conduct itself being increasingly subjected to deliberate 
"progrannning,** extensive chemical mind control and [a] loss of 





Atomi/cd suciiil life, iucrcii singly purposclfss nuisscs in iin uimisc- 
niciit focused society, [aiulj actiu* v^ork being the priviicgc of the 
governiiig uientocnihc elite.- 

Hr/c/.iiiski is uw^rc of the potcntiiil dangers of siicli a world. 
However, he also snsjgests that the caj^acity of government to assert 
social and political control over the individual will vastly increase 
and that this in its turn may encourage a technocratic dictatorship 
in the next several decades. 1 Fe points Out several factors that allow 
at least some optimisni about such a societv 's capacity to meet the 
challenge of the future. 

F his ho])e, however, is diluted by his concluding remarks on the 
impact confrontation with a new technctronie society will probably 
have on the world at large. Some local wars nuiy occur, he argues, 
resulting perhaps in the total unclear destruction of one or several 
smaller nations before the uinversal luoral shock generated by the 
destruction results in t!ie nnjjosition of greater international 

'F'he jjossihdity of avoiding this catastrophe seems to him 
reiuote. The instantaneous character of the electronic iutcrmeshing 
(if mankind will create intense confrontations that will strain sociai 
and international ])eacc. The resulting trauma may create eutirciv 
different perspectives on life, with insecurity, envy, and hostilitv 
becoming the dominant emotions of increasingly large innnbcrs of 
people. Br/ezinski mentions in this connecticni a tlirecAvay split 
into rural-backward, urban-indnstrial, and teclmetronic ways of life. 
Such a restructuring of society would further divide man, and 
increase the oj)stacles to global understanding. 1 le also remarks that 
the rest of the wodd can learn what is in store for it by observing 
what happens in the United States— not a very reassuring prospect. 

I would like to point out a fourth disruptive factor if the 
developments Br/e/inski foresees take place. He mentions as one of 
the positive features of the teehnetromc age the expansion of 
knowledge and the entry into sociopolitical life of the intellectual 
eonnnnnitv. fn the United States, though many uH)an dwellers 
may he college trained, only a minority of them will behmg to the 
privileged meritocratic elite. The nuijority will form part of the 
purposeless masses described earlier, vvjio enjoy a longer lifespan 


MontL'ssori and the Reyolutioii in Values 


;iikI n large aiiiount of leisure. Presumably, tlie selection of the elite 
will be by computer, Tins may result in a subtler/ but far more 
devastating, form of diseriunnutiou than tliat which eauses us so 
much eouceru today. The eollegc-truincd citizens judged unfit for 
adimssion into the elite will, noiietiieless, have becji taught to think 
:md to act intelligently. It is hiconccivable ttiat tlicy will accept, for 
long, being branded as second gnidc eiti/ens by machines. Because 
they will still be hununi beings, a major revolt will probably occur, 
pediaps disrupting the whole systen*. 

Br/e/inski states that increasing aUentiou must be given to 
improving the quality of life for man as man. It seems to me that 
this is the most urgent issue of our time. The situation of man, 
trapped by his environment, can be described by the following 
metaphor: Cod created man in l\h i!n;»ge, and man created 
machines in his image. The machines are now reshaping man. and 
Cod has been declared dead. The guiding and unifying principle in 
human existence has been eliminated. The individual is being 
deprived of his share in shaping his personal destiny. His life is 
being determined, more and more, by impersonal institr tious and 
teclmologieal devices that keep him in bondage. Meaning and 
identity are being lost in the process. Anxiety and a growing feeling 
of disorientation, I'utility. helplessness, and frustration are taking 
over. In the circumstances, revolt is the only way the individual can 
reeo\ er his rights as a man. 

\V*e must keep in mind that when s\v speak of revolutions, 
whether they involve technology, social values, or political ide- 
ologies, we are always speaking of man and bis behavior. I will 
clarify this point later. It is important (o remcudjcr here that 
whatever conception of inner or outer reality we have, whatever 
vahies vvc possess or whatever meaning we attach to life, we are 
always c^-aliug with psychic entities, and hence with subjective 
propensities. No matter how "objective" the outcome of a situa- 
tion may seem to be, the human personality is involved. 

However, because the educational and scientific establishment 
has mistakenly concluded that it is dealing with an objective 
situation, it has cultivated in its students only those faculties that 
have an objective purpose, leaving the development of tlic other 
aspects of the personality in abeyance. Technological progress has 




contributed this pragn» itic om-sidcd approadi to education, 
demanding increasing speciaJi/.ation, and hence an increasing 
fragmentation of knowledge. At the same time,, its very extent is 
sliaking tlie basis of siuence. modern man s last hope of security. 

Actually, man should find 'jecuritv witinn liimsel^, but he has 
received no aid in developing his own resources to this end. Reason 
having failed as a source of st;ibility, the exacting conformity 
required by modern technology becomes an insufferable and 
senseless burden, tolerated only for the material profit and social 
status it offers, xMany cannot stand the strain and want to throw all 
rules and legulations overboiird. They indulge in irrational ways of 
life, in which subjective feelings are the only tilings t!»at count. 

It is not accidental that the human sciences have developed so 
rapidly. Paradoxically, they have helped to increase our confusion. 
Having been modeled on the natural sciences and niathem^jtics, 
they have adopted their perspectives and methoc^s. They conceive 
of man as a machine, thereby serving the very system from which he 
is trying to escape. And to what avail? As Godfrey Cobliner pifits it, 
"I'Vom the worship of authority we have shifted to the worship of 
the collectivity. Instead of acquiring diversity, we have drifted into 
conformity/* ^ It becomes more and more difficult for modern, Uiian 
to find appropriate criteria to evaluate behavior. Standards tend to 
be considered more as styles that are "in" iii certain groups and 
rejected in others, and have no special validity per se. What seems 
iiKXSt doiiiiiiaiit is coiifusion-particularly in the realm of values. 

In view of this, it is my opinion that one cannot speak of 
revolution in this connection. Revolution implies having uew^ 
values for which old ones must make way. We are far from this yet. 
There is no doubt that the rapid environmental changes of which 
we liave spoken, with tlieir emphasis on the material aspects of 
human existence, h we their impact on our value system. However, 
environmental influences are only one side of the coin. Values are 
the result of an intricate process of development of the individual 
personality, by which interactions with/the outer world are replacied 

by inner repr usentations. - - > 

This process of internalization~of which the maturation of 
early ego functions is a precondition-has different stages. It starts 
wjtii imitation, identification, and introjectioii with regard to the 


Muntc^sori and the Revolution in Values 

attitudes of j)arcnts and otlicr sigi>ificant persons in tlic child's 
environment. Ft culminates in the individual's views, ideals, and 
standards, as evidenced by his behavior and bis role in tiic society in 
which he lives;' This is what is mulerstood by bis ego identity. It is 
nsnally considered to he acljicved deveIoj)mentally dnring the 
nornuitivc crisis of adolescence. However, if the environment is 
suitably benign, the maturation of specific ego functions con- 
tinues to occur in the normal individual well into adidt life. It is 
evidenced by a steadily increasing capacity to love, to work, and to 
adapt to the world. 

This does not happen in circtnnstances that cause anxiety. 
Cienerally speaking, wliat we see then is a backward movement, or 
regression, to more primitive and infantile emotional responses. 
Anna Freud remarks that the normal citi/.en does not iriternalize 
the law as snch. Rather, liis attitude toward it perpetnali/.es "the 
infantile position of an ignorant and com]3liant child, faced by 
parents who arc onmiscient and onmipotent. The delinquent or 
criminal perpejtuates tlic attitude of the child who ignores, or 
belittles, or disregards parental authorih', a/nd acts in defiance of 
it."-'* The same phenomenon can occur wiJfh regard to the social 
system as a whole when it is too cvoercive. In n)y opinion', this is also 
the cause of the existing confusiou in vahies. W hen freedom is 
confused witli license.*' adaptation with conf'ormism. " discipline 
with submissiveness."' indeiJcndence with antiantboritarianism,-^ 
ec|Tiality witli uniformity, and so forth, we are dealing with an 
infantile attitude to the social system, ft liad its begiiniings in the 
child's reaction to an omnipotent and.. I may add, intolerant 
parent. Jt is clear that those who harbor these misconceptions will 
also he motivated by them. 

More speeifie value distortions are those related to primitive 
dcfen5: mechanisms, activated by the regressive phenomenon 
menti'.Mied above. These can be sccm. for example, in a ligid 
adherence to a specific value systeni maintained by denying tFiose 
aspects of reahty that cause anxiety, guilt, or pain. This rigidity is 
generally compensated for by a fantasy of vjumipotence. 

In still another form of value distortion, those aspects of reality 
that arc felt to be the most disruptive elements of the govennng 
social system are adopted as personal values to be adhered to and 

pr()p;ig;itcJ with the clctcrniiii:ition of a crusader, This is ijcliic\'cd 
l)y a combiiuition of priiniti\'c defense niechiniism.^V W'e then see, 
for cxiiniple, cliangc being considered a guidiittg principle in its own 
rigltt, I''.\ery tiling fimist be continuously changed whether it makes 
sense or not. In fact, of course, change is a neutral concept. It can 
lead equally to inipro\ einents or to disasters, The same can be said 
of sjK'cd, research,, teclmicjnes. systems, jjrocednrcs. action; all these 
and many more sinnlar means are dissociated from the aims they 
should seir\e. Thc) are jjroinoted to the stiitns of autonomous 
\alues. and thereby lose their purpose. Consider the rage for 
inno\atioi». How well we are all acquainted with it! 

This brings us to the conflict between generations. The 
follow ing obsen ations gi\ e the gist of the situation: 

An excessive desire for liberty at the expense of everything else is 
what undcfinints deniccraty and lends to the deiDiind of tyrinniy . , . 
it uili penneate private life . . . ii becomes the tiling for f;ither and 
son to change places, the fafilier standing in awe of his son. and the 
son neitlit'f respecting nor fearing his parents, in order to assert his 
independence. , . . The teacher fears and panders to his pupils, who 
in turn despise their teacliers and attendants: ;nid tlie young as a 
wlic-le iniitiite tlicir elders, iiitjue with them and set thenwelves 
;igainst them, while their elders try to avoid the reputation of being 
disiigreeiible (ir strict by apii.j; the young inid mixing with tliein on 
terms of easy good fellowship. ^- 

These words could easily apply to certain aspects of today's 
social turbnlcMce. 'F1iey were, however, written by Plato sonic four 
centuries before the birth of Christ. I do not quote him with the 
intention of downgrading the present problems between genera- 
tions, but to put them in the right perspective— to show that 
altliougb times, conditions, and interpretations change, there is 
something basic determining human behavior that does not. I will 
come back to this point later. 

A better understanding of modern youth and its problems calls 
for a consideration of some general points. First of all, we should 
acknowledge the fact that the impact of Workl War il on those of 
us who were young at the time was nmcii more profound and 
distur!i)ing than we generally care to adnut, ft undoubtedly bad 


Montcssori and the Raolution iJi Values 


repercussions on tlic vmy we bronglit up our children. Often, 
co\ering our insecurity as cducatorii by calling ourselves nioclern or 
progressive, we gnvc them ii more permissive education than ue 
rceei\ed. More often tiaun not, we neglected our true responsibility 
in respect to what 1 hunmah Arendt calls the double aspect of 
childhood: tliat of beiug i^ewcoiuers in a strange world and 
unfinished beings in the process of bccomtngj-* We offered tlicni 
more material advantjges tluit allowed tbeiu to enter the adult 
world earJier. but we did not gi\e tlicm ii meauingfiil perspeeti\'e on 
it. 'I heir most direct prcparatmn for the world at large was the 
kaleidoscopic explosioti of images by which television brings its 
inconsisteiicies houfc to us. The poet AvK. nousnian describes well 
what the >onng must feel on encountering tlie adult world: 

1, u stf:niger and afraid. 
Ill a world 1 never nudc.^* 

A second thing we must consider is that when we speak of 
voutl.v or the younger generation, we are making a single entity of 
something- that is not- Tiie only tiling young people have in 
connnon. and that only within a broad margin that should be 
specified in talking abont them, is their position in the continuum 
of human life from birth to death. That we can talk about such an 
abstraction as youth at all is evidence that there is an intrinsic 
pattern determining human development. It manifests itself in a 
specific way and gi\*es a special quality to the behavior of a group of 
peers. Jhmcver, the individuals in that peer group differ, as all 
hunnaij beings do. Fu5;tIierinore, individuals ca*! vuily be considered 
in relation to all other mendjers of the couHiumities in which they 
grow and live, and to the environ n j en t at large. 

Now, the great majority of modern youth neither rebels against 
society, nor withdraws from it. I'hcy do look at it criticilly and 
realistically, with a great deal of insight and understar;ding. In 
addition, what they demand from adults is fully reasonable. They 
wish, to he treated as fellow huuian beings in their own uglit. It is in 
this sense that they request equality. They know very well that they 
lack experience, and they arc willing to learn: but they do not want 
to take things for granted. They want to participate in what goes on 


KIvt'CATION KOK HUMAN ^^:^'t:^()l>^t^:^'T 

and. lit tlic very least, be iiiforincd of the motives behind decisions 
that influence their existence. Tliey :ire all too aware that they will 
presently have to find tlteir place and function independently in a 
world of which the>- know themselves to he citi/.fns. but which 
appears, on the surface at least, to be a chaotic place. 
They arc iiot prepared to accept any of the roles they are ofTered by 
society uncritically. In addition, they will keep their inner reserve 
imti! they are quire sure of their choice. Any genuine help their 
elders can give ?iiem h\ tliis connection will be sincerely 

lliis is why we do great injustice to our children w hvu we speak 
of them as part of "modern yonMi" instead of as individual hununi 
heii^gs, especially if we ideiitify them a priori with one of the 
minorities that receive attention bepuise they happen to be in 
conflict with society. \Vc then force them to assume that role, 
whether we are conscious of it or not. hi facCrcDemon against or 
'.vithdrawiil from society is f;xtre«nc reaction that occurs only 
when circumstances cause intclerable tensions in interpersonal 
relationships, ft occurs, for example, where a pocket of poverty 
exists in an otherwise affluent society, where housing problems 
preclude a livable enviroiniient, where a minority is discriminated 
against for some reason, or in the case of stndei»^s. where the 
situation is complicated by a system that is the most conservative 
ever to exist, and which by tradition requires that one endure 

Of course, in these cases a typological generalization of youth 
also does a further injustice to the individuals concerned. Not only 
does it highlight only one side of the picture, but it ignores the fact 
that there are great differences in individual motivations, which 
may range from sincere convictions and a wish for a more livable 
conmmnitv to pure destnictiveness. 

How 'ever, because of their damaging effect, some general 
behavior patterns should be considered that ^ead to the phe- 
nomenon generally called the generation gap. When young people 
have gemiine grievances that are not taken seriously by the 
autliorities, they protest; they seek .support from others in similar 

Pearl King, in a study of racial prejudice, describes aptly what 

10 i 

MoiitcssoTi and the RcYolutinu in VmIuk's 


Iiiippens ncxt,^'* Wlicn im iiuIividiKiI starts to bcliavc contrary to 
OJv; expectations, it gent.'riilly jrouscs unconscious anxiety, aggres- 
sion, and guilt feelings. As a result, we teiid to categorize actions as 
typical of an existing stereotype sucli v.s "youth,'* "the poor," or 
"blacks." Stereotyped beliefs develop that are niistakeTi:, an whole or 
in part, fur establislied facts, 

'riie person against whom this type of prejudice is directed has 
no way of esc^ijje. The resulting stress IciUls to a regression to more 
primitive forms of social and interpersona} behavior. When indi- 
viduals function even partly in this way, they begin to treat others 
as inanimate objects devoid of lunium feehngs, The span of time 
over wivicli they feel responsibility for theif actions shrinb, so that 
the consequences are felt to be the responsibility of others. 
Morality deteriorates to the law of /l'alion: Who does not agree is 
an enemy. Their world and their relationships are experienced in 
terms of opposites: as all black or all white, all good or all bad. They 
desperately need a person or group to blame as theToiTrec of every 
discomfort and evil in order to maintain some degree of psychic 
eCjuilibriniii. Tiieir chief defenses or methods of acUiptation arc 
projection, splitting, and denial. They create stereotyped images 
onto which they can project all those aspects of themselves that are 
not congruent with their preferred elf-image. Such stereotyped 
images can be connnunicated quickly dirough normal connnunica- 
tion channels and, with the aid of modern propaganda leehnicjues, 
can rapidly become widespread. 

King's remarks shed a great deal of light on the processes under- 
lying what is commonly called the generation gap. These processes 
are operative among both the young and the representatives of the 
establishment. Tliey reinforce the initial distrust and hostility 
between the two, thus precluding the possibility of a genuine 

This is a complex picture, but such is the human situation. 
What can we deduce from it? One thing is certainly clear. FVom 
whatever angle we look at it, we are always brought back to the 
individual human being, his development, and his behavior, Th\$ 
appears to be the basic issue, to which all others are related. We 
cannot avoid the fact, either, that the transition to a postindustrial 
society is creating a serious human crisis that could easily get out of 

i 0 0 


Ikiii^'- Clearly, nil tlioso wiio iuive clioscn as their profession tlie 
Ntu^'y Or giiidaiicc of iunnan !)cings must coordinate tiicir efforts to 
acli'^*^'^' systematically planned oi)jectives. Only in tins way can liicy 
licip reduce tiic existing confusion regarding values, and to 
rear "'U wltir regard to iiis position and role in handling his 

iuive called for concerted action based on a firm common 
i)od> of J;n()\vledgc concerning man and his hciiavior, \Vc have 
disci^^^ed tiic proi)len>s involved. Tiie realm of science is not any 
freer ffoui prcjndiees. strnggies. and contradictions than any otiier 
sectt>^ of innnaii activity. Tiie situation is particularly confused 
vviicJ^ study man i)ecause of iiis co^npicxity. on the one hand, 
and ^"'"i great sni))ectivity on tiie other. Tiie eoiui)inatioii of tiiese 
two ^''^'tors ofteu leads to oversiiU|)lification. If luodcru science has 
t'Uig^^*^ Us anything, it is that truth is eln^ij^v and that no one 
aj)pr«ik'lj lends to it. Tiic i)est we cau do is converge on it from 
severed Perspectives. 

^'le iniiiiau sciences, tiiis is only possii)le if a consensus can he 
read^^'d q,, general scheme. This sciieme should serve as a matrix 
for i^^*^^'grating tiie findings oi)taincd i)y different approaches, ft 
siioiil^l iiiehide and explain all aspects of man's develo|jment, iiis 
i)eiiUVU)r .,j,^i reiatidns to otiiers and to his environment at large 
as tl^^'v really are. Tiiis means tiiat a coherent network of 
propositijjjjjj coueeruing tiie iiuiium personality as an entity must he 

f latter can he seen as evolving in interaction with the 
envir^^'Mjit'iit. passing through distinct stages of development and 
ieadi^'S to ever more complex indiavior. Tiiis conception acknowh 
edgc^^ tile conii)lexity of the iiuniau i)eiiig and iiis i)eiiavior in 
diffc^'^'^U situations and cultures, i iirough such a conception, the 
findi^^S^ of jll tiiose studying iiis i)ciuivior from different approaches 
can ^'oordinated into n conipreiiensive picture that will fit tiie 
retpW^^'nients of scii:)'.ce: It is tiie only conception onnan tiiat can 
he of '-Uiy real i)elp in finding adccpiate solutions for tiie social 
()roi)l^*|^ls we iiavc i)een discussing. 

'J ^^^^ concept is of particular importance in connection with 
cdiicJi^H^o. One of the most persistent |)rejndices in tiie realm of 
iuinu^" •'Sciences is that against tiie ciiild. Its fimdamental function 
in th*^' ^^iri nation of man continues to go nnrecogiii/.ed. although 


Montcssori and the Resolution in Valua; 

Maria Montfssori l)cgan discussing licr discoveries in tliis field iii 
1912, Her observations of tlic child revealed tliat cliaraeterisl'ics 
related to tlie value system were developed through spontajicoiis 
activity in a prepared environment, /vdults nnist help the ciiilci to 
function freely in this environment. This help corresponds io the 
intrinsic needs inherent to the pattern of dcvelopnvjnt, and {ollo\vi> 
his own tempo, Nlontessori denionstrai'ed that under these cond'* 
tions the child is urged from within towards certain Jipccific 
activities which he performs with great concentration, and jay. 
'I'iiese activities are linked to the inner formation of functions that 
ouK' later are integrated and ajjpcar as manifest characteri.stics. 

'ITie goal of Montessori education is the formation of the child's 
whole personality. In the beginning, the child works mainly 
independently, Init it ob.serves wliat others around it do, especially 
the older children. Presently, it starts to collaborate v^itli others. 
'I'he older children p::'^icipate in the activities of younger ones and 
help them in a natural way that both enjoy. Instead of competitive- 
ness, there is cooperation. This enhances tli. children's feeling of 
security and stimulates them to further exploration of their world. 
Respect for otiiers and for the environment comes as a natural 
byproduct of the freedom within a conun unity they experience. 

it is interesting to note that several of the cliar;ictcristics so 
often exhibited in Montessori schools are considered basic to 
human welfare and development by social scientists. In a list of 
properties of biosocial and sociocultural systems, Eric I'rist men- 
tions self-regulation, integration, independence, interdependence, 
coordination, and cu operation as ba.sic to welfare and maturation, 
learning extended adaptability, the accunnd;ifion of culture, and 
expansion of the enviroinnent.**' Because these are all properties 
that are explicitly encouraged by Montessori eraicntion, it certainly 
deserves serious consideration in the search for the best means to 
prepare tomorrow's citizens. As Montessori wrote in her last book. 

One of die most iirgt;»U endeavors to bo undertaken on bclialf of the 
rcconstr net ion of .^^cicty is tlic reconstruction of education [to 
awaken] those marvellous powers which today remain hidden. ... 
'I'hen there will appear tlie child who is destined to form a humanity 
capable of inulerstaiiding and contiolliiig our present civilization. 





1. M;iriii Montcssori. The Formatiun of Man (Adviir. India: Ka- 
lakshctra. 19S5). 

2. Zbignicw Br/ "America in tlic 'rcclinctroiiic Age." En- 
counter (January 1968). pp. 16-26, 

Godfrey Coblincr, quoted in Rene A. Spitz. The First Year of Life 
(New York: International Universities Press. 1965). app.. p. ^65. 

4, Vor a detailed exposition of this intricate process of development, 
see Anna Freud. Nonnality and Pathology in Childhood (New York: 
International Universities Press, 1966). pp. 170-S4. 

X Ibid., p. 18^. 

6. See F. J. }, Buytendi)k. Experienced Freedom and Moral Freedom 
in the Child's Conscience (Amsterdam: A.M.I. Connnunications. 196^). 

7. See Jeanne Lauipl-deGroot. **Some Thouglits on Adaptation and 
Conformisni," a psyclioaiialytie study distiugui.sliing between adaptive and 
conforming behavior, in R. M. Loewcustein et aL. eds.. Psychoanalysis— A 
General Psychology (New- York: International Universities Press. 1966). 

8. See Aldous Muxley, Ends and Means (New York: Harper & 
Brothers. 1937). pp. 200f.. in which he quotes Maria Moutessori on this 
sub)ect and discusses the coexistence of education for freedom and 
responsibility and education for bullying and subordination in Western 

9. See Hannal) Arendt, Betweeri Past and Future (New York: 
Meridian Books, 196?). pp. 190f. 

10. Ibid., p. 180. 

1 1. For a better understanding of these meeiiauisnis. sec Anna Freud, 
The Ego and the Mechanisnis of Defense, rev. ed. (New '^'ork: Intcrna- 
tiortal Universities Press. 1967). 

12. Plato. The Republic, trans. II. D. P. Lee (Ilaruioudswortli: 
Penguin Book5, 1968), pp. 335-36. 

i? l iannah Arendt, "The Crisis in Education." in Betw^een Past and 
Future (New York: Meridian Books. 1961). pp. 173-97. 

14. A E. Housman, Last Poems (Chester Springs. Pa.: Dufour. 1922), 

15. Pearl H. M. Kin. "Flxploriug Racial Prejudice." a public lecture 
given in London. F'^cbruary 1970 (unpublished). 

16. Eric L. Trist. "The Relation of Welfare and Development in the 
'I'ransition to Post-Industrialism." in F. E. Emery and E.L. Trist. Towards 
a Social Ecology: Contextual Appreciation of the Future in the Present 
(New York: Plenum. 1970). 

17. Maria Montcssori. The Formation of Man, p. 98. 



One of the most fascinating cliaracteristics of Maria Montcssori was 
licr al)ility to connect life at tlic moment witli life in the distant 
past. A simple task would start her sketching a panoramic vision of 
man's evolution up to the present time, irresistably stinndating the 
imagination of her listeners. 

I remember her peeling potatoes and looking at them with 
profundity, as if they could reveal some secret of great importance. 
She continued her task, wondering aloud how man originally 
discovered the value of the potato plant, outwardly a weed with 
insignificant little flowers and producing poisonous fruit. What 
made him look further? By what trick of chance did he discover 
that its usefulness to him lay not in the part of it that appeared 
above the surface, but in the part that was hidden in the earth? 
How did he learn that this part was not poisonous, but edible? 
Potato plants apparently came from the New World. How had 
they come to be introduced, adopted, and cultivated throughout 
Western Europe? 

Tlie way she could talk about things like potatoes brought one 
immediately to a higher level of thinking and view oi 'eality, while, 
at the same time, one remained immersed in lium^n life. It was a 
unique experience. It was connected with a special quality of her 
personality and a profundity of insight fundamental to her success. 

Although she may not have made the connection consciously 




F 15 1 'CM ION lOK HUMAN DK Mil. O I'M I- NT 

licrsclf. 1 l)clic\ c licr clcvclopmciit of cosmic education gTcw out of 
tliis iiniisiijl ;il)iliry to connect tlic past ami the ]) resent tlirongli 
iniaj^inative tliinking. As slie licrsclf has pointed out. 

hiiayinativc vision is ijuitc dilTcrciU from iiier<' perception of an 
ohjcct. f.)r it has no limits. Not only can imai^ination travel dir(nii;li 
infinite space, hut also through infinite time; wc can go hackwards 
throngli the epochs, and have tlie vision of the earth as it was. with 
the cre.itnrc^ that inhalnted it. To niukc it clear wlicthcr or not a 
child has nnilerstood. ue should sec whether he can form a vision of 
it within the mind, whether he has gone beyond the level of mere 
nnderstanding. . . . I'he secret ()f good teaching is to regard the 
elnkl's iutelhgence as a fertile field in which seeils may he sown, to 
grow under tlie heat ot Naming imagination. Our .lim tlierefore is not 
merely to make the clnld miderstand, ;md still less to force him to 
inemori/e. i)nt so to tonch his imagination as to enthuse him to his 
inmost core.^ 

In general, we seem to make little use of our iniagi native powers 
in worldh affairs. Wc are involved in a continuous cycle of chaos 
that eventually evokes mto order only to lapse into chaos ouce 
more. LateK' the impetus of this cycle seems to have increased. As a 
residt. many of man's spiritual values are being ))reuiaturc]y 
destroyed. C'lianges are so violent ami contain so much ])(jtential 
for destructicni that it is qncstionahle whether we will find the 
wisdom within ourselves to rediicct the situation so that we move 
toward a more constructive future. 

What impresses me most in reviewing the social situation is that 
we go randoudy from tnie extreme to the other. Our attitude 
towiird pollution is a good example. People had been talking about 
tlie dangers of pollution for decades. Nobody listened: Suddenly 
the message vvas heard; ev eryone becanu' aware of poisons in the air 
and threats to wildlife. Something had to be done, and cpiick! 
Everyone demanded an iuunediate solution to the problem. Of 
course, this vvas not p()ssible. Some short range measures were taken 
to sto]) the shouting. 'These bad other consequences as destructive 
as the initial pollution. 

In reviewing history, it does not appear that political systems in 
tlieuiselves are the answer to human problems. Rather, solutions 
.seem to depend on cert iin human beings who happen to be in 


Costnic Education 

positions of rcspoiisihility. on tlicir personalities nnd tlicir vision, or 
lack of it. Others, sometimes silent and -ometimes sliouting, merely 
follow their lead. The individual persoii;ility must develop the 
incJependenee and maturity needed to see the present situation 
clearly and to visualize the future. It will then be possible to 
consider the direction we are going and how to influence matters so 
that we, with our powers of adaptability, our intelligence, and our 
creativity, can find a constructive way to liandle our world, a world 
which in itself is a beautiful place to live and which could be much 
more agreeable than it happens to be at the moment. This kind of 
indejjendenee and maturity/ however, seems to be scarce. 

I believe that Montessori education aids the development of 
these qualities and, in this sense, provides a more realistic basis for 
hope for the future. This is most readily apparent when one 
examines Montessori's concept of cosmic education. There are 
three separate aspects of this conception that .should be considered 
in this regard- The first is the underlying conception of man and 
humau development, particularly between six and fourteen vears of 
age. The second is the role of education and how to find the 
appropriate way to help the children of this particular age group 
develop as they should. The third is the practical techniques to be 
used in the schools, the didactic aspect. As I am not a teacher, I 
shall limit my remarks io t!:e first two aspects. 

Recently \ chanced to see a television documentary on tlie life 
cycle of the pink salmon. Ft was a report of one of Captain Jacques- 
Vves Cousteau's experiments with Ins oceanographic research vessel 
Calypso. Vhc site was a lake in Ah'.ska that had once contained a 
great quai;>tity of pink salmon. However, salmon factories had been 
built around it. and eventuallv Ibc salmon had been externiinated. 
l*he .site had then been abandoned: What Coiisteau had done was 
to place fertilized pink salmon eggs in this environment that had 
originally proved so propitious for harboring their kind. 

The eggs, wliich had been fertilized in quite a different location, 
were brought in containers to the lake and left there to hatch. As a 
lesvilt, a new cycle of sabnon life was started. The yoimg salmon 
eventually went down to the open sea, where they remained for 
four to five years, and then returned to the lake where thev had 
been hatched. 

When one stops to think of it, it is very curious that these fish 




were prompted by an inner urge to abandon a rich ;nid calm 
environment of sweet water to go down a tnrbulent river to the .sen. 
to iidapt to ;i salt-water environment, to re'^iain there for ye;irs. mid 
then, eventually, to come back-aK if directed by some hidden 
device-to the spot where they were born. To return, they had, 
once agnin. to undergo a physiological adaptation tin's time from 
sali-water life b;ick to that of sweet w;iter. 1o do tins, they had to 
live for some time in the area where the river entered the sea. until 
this readjustment had been completed. Then they started the 
laborious journey up the stream. Many of the fish died in the 
process, dasliing themselves against rocks or jumping too far from 
the river bed. All kinds of animals inhabited the shores of the river, 
feeding off the fish. Thus the environment was kept clean of 
decaying bodies. However, the majority of salmon remained alive. 
At a certain stage of the trip, the males chose mates, and fought off 
other males, llie couples thus formed continued upstream to the 
lake, where the eggs were laid and fertilized. Soon after, the adult 
fish died and their bodies decomposed very quickly. The lake 
became a true cemetery of salmon, their decomposed bodies 
providing plankton for the iie.xt generation of salmon to feed on 
When this next generation is grown, it too will travel seaward, and 
the life cycle of the salmon will continue. 

Wlial can we learn from this captivating story? First of all, it 
teaches an ecological lesson: the interrelation between different 
aspects of the natural environment. Second, it shows the very close 
relationsliiop between living beings and their environment: their 
adaptation to its more rigid features and their contribution to 
maintaining the conditions necessary for the existence of their 
species. The latter is what Maria Montessori calls the cosmic task. 

Her ultimate explanation of this task as a finality, intended by 
creation to maintain thi cosnic order in nature, belongs to her 
personal philosophy and not be accepted by all. But the 

phenomena to which she alludes in explaining it are observable and 
belong to the natural order of things. Today this is referred to as 
tile natural eqnilibrinin. Scientists remained blind to it for a long 
time, considering those few who pointed it out eccentrics. 

One final thing we can learn from the history of Captain 
Cou.stcairs salmon is the difference in the instincts of animals and 


Cosmic Education 


men, as well as the special position of the latter in the cosmos. Let 
me explain these different aspects belonging to the cosmic or 
natural order in contradistinction to tiie social order. 

I shall not expand on the general interrelation of all tiic 
components of the natural environment, which would hring us too 
far afield. We know, however, that the original movements of the 
surface of ou: planet left recesses that retain fresh water produced 
by the cycle of evaporation and the condensation in the at- 
mosphere. The resulting lakes divided into streams or rivers flowing 
toward the sea, .creating a special environment for certain animals 
such as the pink salmon. By what whim of nature we do not know, 
but through slcnv* changes in the interaction of this species and its 
environment, a detailed pattern of behavior becanu: hereditary. 
W'e could call vvhat happened a programming, covering in this case 
a period of some fixe years and comprising such contrasting 
elements that they seem to the superficial observei io be unnatural. 
One would expect that, once accustomed to sweet water, these 
animals would find any other environment unpleasant and hence to 
be avoided. But this is not what happens. On the contrary, they 
find an area where sweet water from the river and salt watei from 
the sea meet and patiently remain there, slowly adapting to the 
nev. condition. 1'hey then go off in schools, seenn'ngly forgetting 
their place of origin. They may wander quite far, finding new 
depths and meeting new dangers, yet feeling at home in their new 
environment. Wiiat happens then is quite incomprehensible, yet 
happen it does, with computerized precision. 

The different schools of salmon, all of a sudden, and more or 
less at the same time, change their course toward their place of 
origin, lliey again remain in an estuary for the time necessary to 
readjust to sweet water, and then start their dramatic trip against 
tlie current to the protected environment in which they were boru 
to lay their eggs. Their life cycle then completed, they die quickly, 
providing the environment with the substance most necessary for 
the new life to come. 

The detailed way in which hereditary instinctual patterns can 
structure the behavior of animals, and the precise timing involved, 
is extraordinary. In humans, certaii. fundamental patterns and 
sequences of development are hereditary, but individual behavior is 




shaped tlirough experience and interae..on witli the environment, 
infimts can he Imnight from one environment to anotlier; they will 
adapt to the environnient in wliich they grow up, '['his experience 
will form them into adult mend)ers of that particular con numity. 
1'hev will then act as if their hehavior was hereditary, like the 
instinctual hehavior ()f the s:ilmon. Being human beings, however, 
they have huilt up their hehavior patterns, through edueation and 
with the aid of the other members of the connnunity. 

What nuikes Montessori education so special is that its 
objective is to help human beings with the enormous task of inner 
construction necessary to from childhood tn full adulthood, 
lulucatioii is an essential aspect of human development. \N'e 
Cwnnu)t become fully adult without it. The level of formation the 
individual personality can reach depends on it. 

\h)ntcss()ri education aims to further this formation of person- 
ahty. It is. therefore, astonishing that so many people have the 
impression that it is only meant for small children. The Montessori 
approach can be a])plied from birth, and even before birtb throngli 
the preparation of adults for parenthood, and Montessori educa- 
tion can he continued until a child reaches maturity. In Holland, 
secondary schools based on Montessori principles liave been in 
existence since 1^)>I. 

To return to {)ur theme, vviien a child has had the help it needs, 
an integration of the personality takes place in ajjproxiniately the 
sixth year. This integration maiks the end of a phase of life lived in 
a protected environment, during which the child was directly 
dependent on the adults responsible for taking care of it. During 
this period, basic behavioral patterns and attitudes were inter- 
nalized and integrated into the child's j)ersonality. At the same 
time, a differentiation of sensorial experiences and an indirect 
preparation for new functions began developing. 

At a certain moment, the child itself wishes tc) come out of its 
protective shell, and to explore the bigger world. Of course, 
emergence from a protected environ n lent is relative, because it is 
not yet capable of really going out and about all by itself. However, 
one can notice its increasing independence from its parents, At this 
stage of develo])ment. one can oljserve a growing interest in the 
behavior of peers and the wish to join others in groups. In addition, 
achdts other than parents are idealjAed. There is a marked tendency 


Cosmic Education 


to identify wiUi group lieroos uho serve as niodels. At this time, a 
iicu attitude to\v;m! the world clearly begins. Cosmic e<.iv; nation 
offers the kind of help that will activate the new potentiahties 
consolidated at this first level of integration. I'he stage has been set 
for this activation through indirect preparaticni ij an earlier phase. 
All the experiences that were offered to the child previously in the 
prepared environment were basic experiences, needed cither for the 
formation of later functions, or as kevj to lielp it to explore and 
orient itself in its world. When it reaches this second stage of 
maturity, it should be given a broader view^ of that world; that is, a 
vision of the whole universe. 

This is a different approach fronj the one usually found in 
schools. The idea, as mentioned above, is to try to awaken the 
imagination of the child, to give it a vision of the order of things. 
The iimer orcler of the personality must be constructed through 
experiences in a structured world. Thus the child nuist have a 
coherent picture, on the broadest scale ]K)ssible, of the ambience in 
which he is growing. Chaos will never stinnilatc it to real 

Imier order is necessary to l)e able to see meaning in one's 
existence, to find one's identity, to achieve independence, and to 
act in a meaningful way. Interest in special details is never activated 
without a prior interest in the whole. Generally, in elementary 
education one finds an endeavor to teach facts as clearly as possible, 
starting with the most simple and eleni'; ?i»V;jv and preceding to the 
more com j) lex and abstract. The student.. ■^:;:'J this boring and must 
force tbemsdvcs to learn by an act of will. To arouse their jiterest, 
they Piust first he shown the interrelation of Hiings in the world— 
the ditTerent aspects of knowlcdg*? that can be studied, how they 
relate to each other or how they have come about. - 

One way to give children the global view of the universe they 
need is by introducing the ecological principle in education. The 
interrelation of living and nonliving things can be considered— what 
plants, for example, need from the earth to be able to grow, what 
special functions they have with regard to carbon dioxide, oxygen, 
water, and .so on. Or the story of the pink salmon can be told in an 
interesting way that appeals to the imagination of the listeners. 
Different aspects of their life cycle can be introduced that arouse 
curiosity and that subsequently can be studied in 'letail bv the 


i(H KnuavnoN for human dkvki.oi'mknt 

cliildrcn. Tliey will do this with pleasure, beciiiise one of the normal 
traits of a happy human being is its desire to use its intdligence and 
endlciis curiosity to know, to explore, and to diccovcr new things or 
new ways to use familiar things. 

It is to this trait that education inn^t appeal. Learning should 
not be an effort for children, a burden, or a tedious duty performed 
for the sake of the approval of someone in authority. On the 
contrary, it should result from a personal interest and involvement 
in the world, and an understanding of the meaning of things. 
When it does, a child is able to orient itself with regard to society, 
to the history of man, and to the future If children are under six, 
history, for instance, can be taught in a way that helps them to 
determine their own identity by knowing how others lived in the 
past and in other cultures. However, what interests older children 
far more is a broader view of man: when he appeared on earth and 
how he evolved through tlie centuries. The idea then is to give a 
dynamic global view of how lunnau life on earth has evolved, 
eventually forun'ng what Maria Montessori called the "Supra 

Children at this stage are fas^cinated because this story concerns 
them personally. They are begimiing to be aware of their own 
situation as developing human beings. It also makes them conscious 
in a natural way of the difference between man a id other living 
beings. There is an interrelationship between botli and the 
environment. This interrelationship is evident in what Maria 
Montessori referred to as the cosmic task—the service that nuist be 
rendered by the individuals of each species to the environment on 
which they are dependent for their existence to maintain it in such 
a way that it will support their descendents, generation after 

generation Some - do this through their death, like - the salmon 

whose decaying bodies provide plankton for their young. Others do 
it during their lifespan. Bees, for example, need flowers so that they 
can gather nectar ^o make honey. One might call this their main 
concern, if one could credit them with consciousness. During this 
process they inadvertently fertilize the flowers they visit by carrying 
pollen from one to another on their hairy legs. In this way they not 
only make use of the environment, but they preserve and cultivate 
that part of it which is needed for the survival of their species. 


Costnic Education 

Nhnrs intcrrcliitioiisliip with tlic eiivironiiiciit is difiFcreiit, 
however, l ie is :ni agent of cliaiigc. I le does not luu e tlie same fixed 
correlation witli the environment as animals, l ie has the urge not 
only to adapt to the environment, but to clia;^^e it as he goes along 
and as his needs and his imagi nation (or lack ot it) dictate. This is 
what Maria Montes.sori called the cosmic task of man: to continue 
t'lic work of creation. 

Ever since his appearance on earth, man has continued chang- 
ing and enriching his environment. Man lia« the power to create 
fantastic new possibilities. He may travel toother planets, or totally 
destroy this one. I li.s power needs gnidaiice. Bees, needing nectar, 
also see to the fertilization of the local flowers. Humans, needing 
salmon, fish for it in an area until it i.s exterminated, and then go 
elsewhere. It would havr hcen quite easy to avoid destroying all the 
saluion in the Alaskair lake described earlier. And it would have 
been in the fisheries* in .erest to have done^iO. However, the vision 
for such long-range pl uming was lacking. Man docs not luvve 
inbuilt progrannning, as does the salmon. He program 
himself, tlnough cou.scious effort. It is obvious today that man 
desperately needs the intelligence to use his power to change things 
constructively. This is his only hope, if he is to maintain his self- 
made environment in a condition that may permit lunnan life to 
evolve toward a dignified existence for everyone. This can only be 
achieved with the aid of edncatioii 

It is important, then, realize that the real aim of Montessori 
education is not the imparting of knowledge for the sake of 
learning itself. Rather, it encourages learning because learning is a 
feature of human development, a need that cannot be met without 
education. Consequently, it is first necessary to study human 
development and to gain...insight .intvO-^the special -needs of the - 
growing individual in different phases of his life. 

By special needs I do not mean what John, or Mary, or another 
child wishes at a particular moment, but the inner needs that guide 
the development of the individual personality. An adult who wants 
to help growing individuals with 'this great task of construction 
must understand the nuiltiplicity of factors determining human 
behavior and their relationship to the developmental profile of 
human life. 



llistOTicully, the complexity of tin's process hns not really been 
taken into coi'':^.ieraiion in connection with edncation, [.atdy, 
however, .its relevance is becoming mortr- and more mulerstom!, 
particnlarly at Ivigher levels of edncation. Universities and high 
schools are begiiniing t(i nuilerstnicl how nuidi tlie effectiveness of 
their work depends on what their stndents Isjave been able to 
achieve within tlieni selves during the preceding period, Tiiere is 
more iniderstancling of hnnian development as a continuous 
process in which the individual remains the same psychosoniatie 
entity while constantly ada^)ting to changes in his environment. It 
is, then, not so important which facts one teaches the student, 
becansre very often these facts ;ire already obsolete by \l\c time they 
can l)e used, lb is njore important to help him to develop his 
potentialities so that he can rely on his own ability tcrcope with the 
imexpccted .and solve whatever new problems may crop up. In 
other word.s,' he must be helped to feel independent in his own 
world and to develop the vision that will help him as an adult to 
maintaiii the environment in such a way that the unending, 
creative, and gigantic cosmic task of man can continue. 

The conunon intelligence we all share has, for air practical 
purposes, no limits. Man can go on finding new possibilities forever. 
It is to this connnon intelligence, a dynamic connnunal entity that 
is created by the individual personalities forming the community, 
that cosmic education is directed. The progress, or lack of it, of the 
human conuni.niity is determined by the concerted action of the 
individuals in it. I'f we merely react to ad hoc happenings and crises, 
our progress will be poor and our actions will be shortsighted. If we 
are inspired by vision and creative imagination, our progress can be 
very great and our actions future oriented. Cosmic education seeks 
to offer the. A'oung, ;it the appropriate sensitive period, the 
stinmlation and help they need to develop their minds, their vfsion, 
and their creative power, whatever the level or range of their 
personal contributions may be. 


1. Maria Montcssori. To Educate the lltijnan Potential (Adyar, 
I ndia: Kalakshetra, 1948). pp. H-15. 


Paula Polk Lillard 

It is difficult to develop a feel for Moiitcssori education until it can 
be experienced' as an ongoing involvement with children. The 
following scenes from a Montessori classroom are presented for 
those who art* nnfamiliar with the Montessori approach in action. 

At eight-thirty, there are six or seven children out of a possible 
twenty or so already in the room. They arc three to six years old, 
bnt I am surprised at how tiny several of them seem. 

I am aware first of two boys sitting opposite each other on a 
small rug on tire floor. I call them A and B for convenience. There 
is a basket of solid geometric shapes (wooden ones, smooth and 
shiney with a bine enamel paint) between them. A is blindfolded. 
He is turning one of the solids over in his hands. "You're peeking! 
Can't peek!*' Says B, who is not bh'nd folded. "I feel it," says A, 
rolling it carefully between his - hands. "What is it?" "Ovoid - 
answers B. A takes oflF the blindfold and looks. *'Riglit," he says. 
Now B takes a solid. He has apparently decided to dispense with 
the blindfold and has simply closed his eyes. "Ellipsoid," he says. A, 
with the blindfold still pushed up. says, "No. Sphere." "Sphere," B 
repeats. A little girl who has stopped to watch says "sphere," 
prononncing the "sp" distinctly; then she moves on, watching me a 
bit. B now picks up another solid. "What is it?" he asks. 
"Cylinder." says A. "Okay." B takes another object. "Cone," he 





suggests. *»fsrQ- (.^.Ujj hij,,^ "triangular prism." Both boys arc 
liaving ^1 fi„^> time. I sense no competitive feelings, but there is a 
good of teaching g^^"g on as one names objects for the other. 
A say5/ ' Vi make a house." I expect a switcli to dramatic play, but 
A takt-^s triangular-based prism and places it on a rectangular- 
based P^'^Mn. making what looks like a house with a roof. •'Oh 
yeah;^ says b. 

A h^^]{: girl staiKling by uie says» "See that lady in the red shirt 
ijud pi^"ts i„ the hall? That's my mother." She sits down at the 
table O^^t to mc, which has bells on wooden stands on two shelves, 
j^lie beg^is to sound thcni with a stnall mallet, moving up and down 
the scijl^'. ^^^pj. soivnds with a felt stopper similar to the 

I uO^^^{: the chart behind her oi) the wall at the height of "small 
people^ eyes. It's an ecology chart. It says '*Save our parks. Save 
Qiir bir^^^- Save our air.'' There is an attractive picture under each 
siiy^ng. is quite siiHple and easy to see from a distance. It is the 
Qply pri"k^d material hung on the walls of the room. In fact, I now 
notice the walks of the room are largely blank. There are only 
two otJ^er objects on them. One is a mural behind me which the 
cliildrei^ ^lUvc made. It is of animals, plants, and birds. The other is 
opposite ^^le. a montage of the .sun, earth, and stars in colored paper 
sliowiug^he simple relationsliip of each to the other, also made by 
the chi'^r^^n. 

I look m- ^Yic room as a whole for the first time. Simplicity is its 
cliief cI^'^Hieteristic. The shelves (which are low and set along the 
walls) b'^^'e manv niaterials on tlicni, but thev appear uncluttered 
aijd cart-'fiill 

y arranged. They are obviously divided into areas: one 
for mat^'^^als used in practical life exercises (mostly small baskets 
cOi^*^ain>"g various materials), one for sensorial niaterials (many in- 
woodeo boxes), one for academic materials, one for artistic 
materiiJ^^- There are no colored tapes or marks to show the children 
where t'^f different materials go. Even though they are very young, 
they ob^*%sly manage to remember. 

I look iihQ^ji- tiie room to see what's happening. I'm taking 
jiotes, ii^^d ti,^ ]j|.|.je gij] who stopped to watch the boys with the 
so^ds coniQg ^^.^j. 5^.^ ,,,y writing. She sighs, hands on hips, 
sec^niing bit sleepy. Several other children are walking about, and 


Appendix: A Montessori ClassTooiti 


sonic ;irc working at tables. A girl watches a boy working on a 
puz/.le nuij). She says, "I've got new shoes." **Oh," he rejjlies, "Who 
bought shoes for you? ' She watches him for awhile and they 
talk a little more. 

A tiny girl takes a furry animal out of a eage, holding it jKirtly by 
the neck. I feel a little concern for them both. The teacher, whom 1 
have not really been aware of as yet, speaks to her. The little girl 
then carries the animal carefully to the table, cradling it in her 
arms. She holds it up now and then— gently for such a little child— 
but I am glad the teacher has quietly sjjoken to her assistant, who 
appears to be staying nearby. The animal is one I am not familiar 
with— not a gerbil, hamster, or guinea pig. It washes its face with its 
jxiws and wanders quietly about the table top. .After fifteen 
minutes or so, the little girl carries it safely back to its cage, and ! 
breathe an apparently unnecessary sigh of relief. 

The teacher now speaks quietly to the little girl who had 
watched me earlier. The girl goes and gets a tray, chooses a metal 
inset (a blue geometric shape in a red metal frame-in this case a 
circle}, three colored pencils,; and a paper the same size as the 
frame. She carries all this to a table and begins to trace the inset. 
She talks a little to a girl working next to her. By now, she has lost 
her sleepy look. 

'Hiere seems to be some problem with A and B, the geometric 
solid boys, who have now been joined by a girl. It .sounds like a 
dispute over who is going to put away what. The teacher comes by, 
listens a moment, says in a quiet manner "Decide that among 
yourselves." and moves on. The girl rolls up the rug, and the boys 
put the materials away. It is now nine-fiftcen. 

I notice a girl next to me who is washing dishes. There arc two 
large bowls,-a sponi;e, soap, and a pitcher, all c-iircfully laid out. Slie- ~ 
has a bright yellow apron on. She is quite involved in what she is 
doing and seems to be especially enjoying the feel of the suds. 

The teacher is in front of me on the floor with a little girl 
working with letters. They are in a wooden frame box. The 
consonants are blue, the vowels, red. The teacher seems to be 
saying a word, and the girl then makes it with letters on the rug. 
The little girl who had been playing with the animal comes and 
stands by the teacher. "Do you need help?" the teacher asks. The 


cliild is really quite young, I realize, as I sec her up close. The 
teacher buttons her apron for her. The girl goes to get a basket 
from the shelf, sits at a table, carefully lays out its contents, aiul 
begins to polish a small mirror. 

There is a boy using a button frame (a wooden fr;ime with 
pieces of material that button together). 1 le repeats the buttoning 
and unbuttoning process a mimber of times. It appears to be quite 
easy for him, and he is in no hurry, lie looks around at what the 
others are doing while he works. 

Another girl is working intently with clay. She is sitting next to a 
boy who is drawing a picture with watereolor pens. Me puts his 
work awiiy and walks by the boy with the button frame, l ie says 
something to him, and the frame is quickly put away. They make a 
bit of a bux/.ing noise and rush about a little, so 1 know something 
is up. I half expect them to start running around, but it turns out " 
they are just excited ov^-r what they plan to do next. **Vou get the 
rug," one boy says to the other. They get out a pu/zlc map of the 
hemispheres. ('I'hesc are wooden pu/zle maps, carefully hand- 
crafted. The edges are all smooth, and the pieces brightly painted. 
Tiny knobs on the pieces make them easy to handle.) I'hcy discuss 
where the pieces go. "No, no, no! Right here. Okay/' 

As all this goes on, I notice that they, and in fact all the 
children, are speaking in ordinary voices. There are none of the 
nmted tones and whispers heard in some Montessori classrooms: 
Yet, the overall .sound level is somehow not loud or obtrusive in any 
way. If I had to choose one word to describe the atmosphere, I 
would say ''natural," and my .second choice would be **relaxed." 

1 turn back to the map boys. **I know we need this," I hear. 
Then one goes to the teacher, who cuts some paper for them t!ie 
size of the pu/y.le nuip. -riiey-both almost-run for colored pencils, ^ 
and there is some discussion of colors. "1*11 get orange, etc." Tlicy 
take a bowl, return to the rug, and trace two circles the size of the 
henns|)here map. One boy begins to make a map of the Western 
henii.sphere by tracing pieces from the puzzle in one of the circles; 
the other does the Eastern hemisphere in the other. They then 
begin to color the drawings, using the same colors for the 
continents as the wooden map docs. 

1 sec a little girl with a block into which mo\'able cylinders fit. 


Appendix: A Montessori Classroom 


She has taken the cylinc)'*rs (which arc graduated in size) out of 
their holes and placed thcni in front of the block. She drops a tiny 
one and gets up to retrieve it. She seems to be watching what others 
around her are doing as she works. She is at one of the individual 
tables in the -rooin, but other children are nearby, some also at 
tables and some on rugs on the floor. 

Next to me, the little girl at the bells says aloud, but seemingly 
to herself, "These bells don't seem the right way put together to 
nie. Let s try them again." Two other girls come up, and they talk 
for a few minutes as she continues with the bells. (There are two 
sets of bells; one arranged so that the sound each bell makes 
corresponds to the next note in the scale, the other arranged by the 
child to match the first set. 

Gradually, I become aware of another sound in the room: 
"Beep, beep, beep," one boy is saying. He is at a table, and I can't 
see what he is doing. A boy goes between this table and another 
with a tray on which there are two porcelain pitchers. He is careful, 
but the other boy is causing a minor disturbance witli his 
"beeping." The boy with the pitchers sits at a farther table and 
begins to pour nater from pitcher to pitcher with great care, using a 
funnel. The teacher comes up to a girl next to the beeping boy and 
helps her rearrange hor pencils. (She is tracing a metal inset.) She 
(the teacher) then speaks to the beeping boy very quietly. I cannot 
hear what she says. But the next moment he is crying, and she has 
picked him up. He is resting his head on her shoulder. There is an 
obvious warmth and tenderness in their relationship. The teacher 
carries the boy into a small room adjoining the classroom. In a few 
minutes she is back, still carrying him. They go to a tissue box. She 
hands him a tissue and puts him down. He blows his nose, wipes his 
eyes with his hands, goes to the small room to throw the tissue 
away, and returns to his table. Whatever happened, he seems back 
together again. I think once more how small he is. He must be 
barely three. 

Another girl is sitting at a table, folding squares of material 
along sewn-in lines to make triangles, squares, and other shapes. She 
works with great concentration. Next to her the girl with the 
cylinders continues working and watching. The girl washing dishes 
is now beginning to clean up. She brings in a bucket for the 


dishwater, The assistant teacher is working with a boy with movable 
letters, a different box from ll:c one used by the teacher ;nid the girl 
earlier, 'lliesc letters are smaller, and she appears to be asking for 
sounds, not whole words, 'fhe map boys are working away on the 
floor, talking to each other at the same time. Another girt is looking 
at a paperback book of reptiles. 

It is now nine-thirty, and I go into another room. This time the 
children are five to seven years old. They seem busy, but again lu a 
relaxed and sociable fashion. I'here are several children workmg on 
rugs on the floor by the door. They are making books of the 
contments. I notice that the continents are the same size as those 
traced bv the younger children in the first room. These youngsters 
have apparently used the same map as an outline. They have 
written the nanies of the continents on the book covers, which are 
spread out on the rugs together with pictures to be pasted on them 
representing life in each continent. The children also have hned 
paper, and thev tell me they are going to write a story about each 
continent for their books. Since several children seem to be working 
on this same project, I ask if they are all going to do it. **Yes," say' 
the girls next to me, who are busy getting snacks out of their 
lunchboxes on the floor. Just then a boy comes up to the teacher 
and says, ''Vm readv to do my conthient book now." That answers 
my next question, \vhich is "Who chooses when to do what?" 
There seems to be a good deal of eating going on at various tables. 
Work is out everywhere, too, but a fair amount of it appears to 
have been abandoned for the moment in favor of the snacks. 

This room, I notice, is not as simple as the first room. It is far 
from cluttered, but there is more on the walls. Also, the shelves go 
up higher, which creates a fuller impression. Many materials are the 
same ns those used by the younger children. 

A child comes up to the teacher who has brought me to the 
room. She hugs her. -\ can't touch you," the child tells her. "I have 
gooev hands." (Cupcakes seem to be a favorite snack.) Gradually, f 
notice, work is being returned to as the snacks are finished. 

A boy comes up to where the group is working on the continent 
maps. Me unrolls his rug, causing the pictures which one girl had 
laid out to paste, to blow about. "Sorry about that, Noel," the boy 
tells her. om, I'm going to punch you," she replies. But hf:r tone 


Appendix: A Montessori Classroom 


is casual. '*No\v, doift do tliaf again/' slic cautions liinu *'Look out, 
you're stepping on Brian's." [He was, in fact, but barely. He was 
actually trying not to.) "Too bad," he answers. **You mess 
everything up," she complains, but her still-gentle tone sounds 
more like flirting. "Yeah, hut you hadn't pasted yet," says Tom, 
getting back to the crux of the matter. Now the girl closest to Noel 
says, "You don't know how hard it is for me to sleep at night. I have 
a baby brother. He sleeps right next to me." The conversation turns 

The teacher shows the boy who was "ready" to start his 
continent book how to go about it. They liave a hemisphere map 
(like the one in the first room) on the rug, but this one has two 
knobs missing. That's not ideal. That is, however, the only missing 
part I notice in any equipment that morning. I think about the 
amount of work involved in keeping all the materials in good 
condition, and the collecting of all those pictures to be pasted, 
l^ter I notice an assistant and several children cutting out pictures. 
So that's how the teacher manages that, 1 think, at least for this 
particular project, 

I walk about. A boy is working on the stamp game. This is math 
material and consists of a box of small tablets with numbers on 
them. On his paper the boy has written "five plus two is seven." 
The box lid says "Steven's fact box." He is still eating, and I feel 
that he is not particularly happy with his work. Next to him are 
several tables. At one a girl is doing decimal work with a wooden 
chart. Another is working with a stamp game. 

Nearby, one girl is sitting with a closed reference book in front 
of her. lliinkiiig she really isn't engaged with anything at the 
nioinent, and that such a reference book is a bit much for even a six 
or seven year old, I ask her what she is doing. She opens the hook 
promptly to a page that has a marker in it. "Oh," she .says, "we're 
going to write a .stcry, and then we're going to build a tunnel of 
mud up there in the front of the room and plunge a stick in it, and 
rocks fly out." Needless to say, the picture in the book is of a 
volcano. I'm inipres.sed with the very confident, but nice and warm, 
manner in which she describes all this to me. A boy comes up to her 
with some paper, for writing the story. "Oh, that's plenty," she tells 




I kiiei?! down by a table wIktc a girl is still eating licr cupcake. 
"Land forms/' slic says to nie witliout being asked, lier legs swinging 
back and fortli under the table. "You color tlicni in. One is named 
an istlnnus." Tbere are papers with a peninsula and other land 
forms outlined on them on the table. There arc also cards with 
definitions on them: "A gulf is a large part of an ocean or se.j 
extending. . . She has copied one of the definitions on a piece of 
paper. 1 know that her first Introduction to land forms when she 
was In a Montessori classroom for younger children, was through 
trays m which the land forms were built up of clay and she poured 
water into the open spaces— thus creating her own gulfs, peninsulas, 
or whatever. 

.\ boy walks by another table and a girl drops her colored 
pencils. ^'I'here are as many as five children working very closely at 
tuljies-i "Oh. NJaria. pick them up." one gid says to another 
working with her. 1*hen. to the boy. she says "Would you get to 
your work?" "We're just starting our work and now they have to 
start bugging us." she tells the other girl. "Von guys are being too 
nosy." she goes on. .Again, there is a teasing, flirting qualltv' to the 
children's voices, as there was in the confrontation between Tom 
and N(jel. 

My "land form" girl now talks to me again. "Andre is doing the 
same thing." she says, pointing to a boy several tables away, lie has 
in fact done a lunuber of written definitions. 

.•\ girl standing by a boy doing a decimal chart says. "I kiss your 
mother sometimes." "Okay." he replies. "So yon appreciate 

A girl comes up to mc. "What are you writing?" she asks. "Ob. 
well/* she says. "I'm doing the thousand chain." She goes back tj 
the corner of the room. 1 notice there are four chains out. (TlieNe 
are chains of small glass beads for counting. The thousand chain is 
in bars of ten beads. There Is a chain for nines, eights, and so ou. 
There are also matching cubes of a thousand, squares of a hundred, 
and so on. All these are used in the counting process to show what a 
thousand is, what a hundred is. and so on.) The girl begiiis to count 
the beads, marking each bar with a counter and the appropriate 
numeral. The particular chain she is using extends most of the 
length of the room. It is on the floor on a long felt mat. A little boy 


Appendix: A Montessori Classroom 


working on another chain says, '*sixt>\ sixty, sixty," as he searches for 
the counter he needs. "Tin doing the longest chain/' the girl says. 
"That's the easiest one!** he replies. **Yeah, easiest but the* 
she a!is\\'ers, undaunted. 

One boy is practicing writing in script, and another girl is 
writing spelling words. Neither has a workbook. Otherwise, the 
approach to spelling seems conventional in this particular 

A girl is writing a story to go with a picture sh.e has drawn. She is 
talking to the boy next to her, who is doing land forms, as she 
works. Next to them is a girl writing numerals and defining them: 
*'twenty-five mean.s two tens and five units....** She has no 
numerical material out, but I know that she lias probably learned 
these cojicepts originally from teen boards (wooden boards with 
numerals on them and tablets that slide into place making a 
number). These are used in conjunction with the glass bead bars. 

It is time for me to leave, ai'd I slip out quietly. 

Obviously, Montessori classrooms in which the children are so 
plainly self-disciplined and self-motivated and the atmosphere so 
filled with purposeful activity and sociability as the ones I've 
described don't just happen. Considerable preparation is required 
on the part of the teacher— who nmst study Montessori theory, 
learn to observe children and their spontaneous development, and 
develop considerable organizational skills. In addition to this 
preparation, the key to success for a Montessori teacher lies in his or 
her ability to understand the role of the "teacher." Montessori 
herself substituted the terms '^director or directress" for teacher. 
"Fliey are not often used in English translations of Montessori 
literature because these terms are generally used today to refer to 
administrative heads of organizations and could therefore be 
misleading. However, Montessori's original idea cannot be stressed 
enough: The teacher is not to teach; he or she is to guide the 
child— to/)/£rn its education for it. 

Teachers should gradually introduce very young children of two- 
and-a-half and three years to more and more materials, extending 
the range of their options from one toy or one kind of material to 
one toy and two kinds of materials, and so on. Extending their 




options gradually gives the children an opportunity to be successful 
in choosing activities they are ready for, and therefore enjoy. In this 
way, their confidence in their ability to choose for themselves 
grows. They also learn that they can trust their teachers to present 
them with challenges, but not to overwhelm them witn activities 
which they have no idea how to carry out. aiVvl which must 
inevitably end in frustration or boredom. The security tliis knowl- 
edge gives them makes them eager for new expcjienccs. 

llie future success of the relationship between teachers and 
children in Montessori classes will depend on the teachers' ability 
to choose new challenges wisely. They nmst use their powers of 
observation, their knowledge of sensitive periods, and their under- 
standhig of the Montessori material. They must direct the children, 
but on the basis of their own observations of the children's needs. 
In this sense, it is the children who must direct the adults. It is not, 
therefore, a case of the director and the directed. The adults and 
the children work together to further the children's development. 
Thus, both are directors and both are directed. 



absorbent mind. 12, 19, 40. 42. 48. 61 
abstraction. 66 
action-research. 44 
activity, purposeful. 42. 43 
adaptation, 6, 27, 51, 55, 61,75, 76, 77, 
89, 93 

adolescence, 50, 56, 75, 89 

adult, role of, 6, 1 2, 13, 19, 20-21 . 25-26, 

anthropological orientation, 5, 8, 47, 55 
Aries, P., xii 
uuto-education, 56. 62 

Barzun, J.. 80 
Bergc, A., 11 

behavior, human, 10, 11, 36, 37; com- 
pared with animals. 18, 37 
behaviorism, xiv, 9, 51 
blueprint, for research. 5-7 
Bronou-ski, J., xiv . 
Bmner, J., 9, 11,62,64,67-71 
Brzezinski, Z., 85-87 

Cartel, A., 10 

child, goal of, xiii, 5, 6. 1) , 19, 38-40. 47. 
75; prejudice toward, 5, 14, 29, 
30-31, 51, 63.66,67,94 

choice, 36, 41, 43 

civilization, 38, 39 

Cobliner, G., 88 
Coglnll, G., 9, 1 1 

concentration, 14,29. 32,41,4.?. 52, 53 

conaete operations. 64 

conditioning, 10, 17. 18, 49 

conformity, 26, 51, 54, 88 

control of movement, 14, 31, 33 

controls of error, 26, 69 

Cousteau, 99 

creativity, 6, 13, 64 

culture, 13, 19, 20,36,40,42,47 

cuniculum, 53. 67-68, 70, 103, 104 

Dalton School, 54 
Darwin, C, xiv 

development, human, 9-11, 14, 19, 37; 
sodal, 6, 19, 25, 26, 28-30, 32, 34. 

discovery, notion of in Montcssori edu- 
cation, 22. 24. 25, 38, 47, 67-69 
discovery of the child, 4, 44 

ecology, 15,70, 100. 103 

education, xv. 5, 15, 17, 18, 27, 48. 53, 
55, 76, 78-79; beginning, 52; goal 
of. 6, 41, 60, 82. 104, 105; progres- 
sive, 17-18, 64, 91; traditional, 
43,51,56,61,70.85, 103 

ego, development, 25, 34, 40, 42, 61, 67, 
89; function of, 22 





cinbr>onic life. 8. 10-12. 19. 47 
ciiviroiiiTiciit. prt'purcd. S. 7, 14. 20-21. 

2S-27. 61.62. 103 
evolution. 37 
cxperiiiicututioii. 43 
exploration. 20. 22 

fantasy. 17. 31-33. 54. 64 
fonnatioii of man.-xiii. 5. 6. 11. 14. 15 
48. 7S 

freed oni. notion of in Montessori cdn ca- 
tion. 14. 20.21.25. 
Frend. A.. 89 

Krend. S.. xii. 48. 49. 50. 77. 82 
frustration. 17, 64. 77 

generations, conflict between. 90; gap 

between. 92. 93 
Geneva School. 64, 65 
growth. 9-11. 13 

Millebrand. M'.. 55 
llonsnian. A. E.. 91 
Unnt. J. McV..63 

imagination. 33. 98. 103 
independence. 19. 21. 26, 31. 58. 42. 56. 

62. 76. 106; economic. 56 
indirect preparation. 14. 22. 29, 34. 41 102 
individnal being. 36. 38 
individuation. 13. 77 
Industrial Revolution, xii 
instinct, xiii. 18. 19. 37 
integration. 14. 21. 51. 76, 102 
intellectual achievement. 45. 55. 61, 63- 

intelligence. 22. 24. 31, 34. 37. 43. 61; 

L'onnnon. 38. 106 
intentionality. 37 
internalization. 13. 61. 62. 66. 88 
isolation of principle. 69 
Itard. J.. 48 

juvenile delincjuency. 76. 89 
King. P.. 92. 93 

language. 6. 12. 13. 14,36. 38. 62 
learning, 9. 10. 12. 17, 6"^ 

Lorenz. K.. xiv 
love. 12. 13. 27. 60 

niateriali/.ed abstractions. 22. 65 
maturation. 10, 13. 18. 19.53.63. 66. 76 
Miller, II.. 59 

Montessori.Maria. 1. 4. 11. 44, 65. 74.,97 
Montcssori material. 17. 18. 20. 21-25. 

28-29. 69. 71 
Montcssori Method, criticism of. 2-4, 7. 

30. 68-69; goal of. 95, 99. 105; 

history of. 1-3. 50. 33.44. 68.71. 

82. 95; principles of, 5-7. 18-21. 

26-8. 37-39. 41-43. 47-48. 102; 

research. 7.44. 115-16 
Montessori schools. 2. 25. 30. 31. 54. 95 
Montessori teachers. 7. 25-27. 41. 44. 

morality. 12 
Morris. D., ^) 
motivation. 53. 67 

needs, inner, 5. 14. 20. 26. 31. 42. 56. 67, 

76. 78. 105 
Neff. \V.. 49-52 
normalization, 14. 32,41. 67 

observation, xii, xiv. 5. 7. 31. 33. 41. 44, 

operational thinking. 63. 65 
order. 11-12. 14.20, 31. 32. 33. m 

parent-child relationships. 52. 76-78 
pedagogy. 2. 53. 55. 56 
peer group, 102. 103 
Perquin. N.. 5 

personalitv. development of. xiii. 6, 9. 
11-14. 20. 55. 62, 64. 76. 87, 102; 
totalitv of. 6. 21. 40-42. 53. 64. 


Piagct. J- 64-67 
Plato. 90 
play. 30-34 
pollution. 98 

potentiality, notion of in Montessori 
education. 10. 11. 13. 19. 20. 38, 
39, 53, 55, 106 

prepared environnKnl. 5. 7, 14. 20-21, 
25-27, 61, 62. 103 

psychic devciop'jrjcnt. xiii. 1 1 . 42 




psvchoannlvtic thought, 7, S, H,44, 51, 

psvcbolog)', >7; modern, 8, 9, ^5-^7, 40- 


psychosomatic unity, ^6, 41 , 4\ 76, 106 
puberty, 14. 48, )1, 77 

reading, 25 
rebellion, 16 

repetition, as a notion fti Montessori 

education, 22-2"., ".2, 69 
research, 5, 4^, 67, 81 
reversibility, 64 
rigidity, >6, 44 
Rotb,'n., 56 
Roussean. |. f., xii 

s;ihnon. 99, 105 
Schneiders, A., 76 

scientific approacli, xiii, xiv, 5, 7, 9, ^1, 

self-confidence, >2 
self-constriietion, ^3, >4, 48 
self-direction, 41 
self-expression, >2, ^4, 64 
self-realization, ?8, 60 
seiLsitive periods, U, 19, 20, 42, 48. 50. 

sensitivities, I2,A9, 42 

Skinner, B. F., xiv 

specificity of man, xiv, 8, 18, 35, 37, 47 
spiritual being, 12, 36, 39, 40, 42, 53 
spiritual embryo, xii, xiii, xiv, 51 
spontaneous activity, 7, 31, 33,41,44 
Stone Age, 39, 40 
Supra Nature, 104 

teacher training, 44 
teaching aids, 70 
toys, 30-31 

unconscious education, 6. 39, 52 
unconscious uiiud, 12, 14,82 

values, 41, 88, 89,98 
X'ellard, |., 39 
Vellard, M.-Y., 39 

Wallace, A., xiv 

work, 6, 13, 14,32,38,42.47,48-53,56. 

67; collective. 28; psychological 

value of. 53. 55 
WocxJs Hole Conference (Massaclm- 

setts, 1957).62 
world situation. 73. S7. 98 
World War 11,44.90 

youth, modem. 79. 90-92